Mitchell Hamline School of Law is sticking with online learning for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year.
The St. Paul school made the decision to have students remain fully online for the upcoming J-term and spring semester because “the public health situation has not changed appreciably since late July when we decided to teach remotely in the fall," President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki said in an email to students on Monday, according to a news release.
Minnesota is among the states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks. On Wednesday, MDH reported more than 1,000 new confirmed cases of the virus and 35 additional deaths, which ties Minnesota's record set May 28 for the most deaths in a single 24-hour reporting. In total, 2,281 people have died and 126,591 positive cases have been reported in Minnesota.
Niedwiecki cited rising infection numbers, difficulties in tracking the virus' spread, people of color being disproportionately affected and "lack of certainty" on how to block transmission as reasons to stick with online classes, which he says have gone well and he's confident that'll be the case this spring, too.
Operations at the school will be the same as they are now – the building won't be used for classes and the school won't host outside groups for events. The library will stay open and COVID-19 protocols are expected to be followed for anyone who visits campus.
Mitchell-Hamline has not had any reported cases of COVID-19 on campus, which, Niedwiecki admits is "not surprising given the building is largely shut down." However, people in the school community have tested positive (he didn't provide a number).
Niedwiecki encourages students to report to the dean of students if they test positive for the virus, even if they don't plan to come to campus so the school can support them in their recovery and complete information about the health of the community as it considers when and how to reopen the campus.
Most colleges and universities in Minnesota haven't announced changes to plans for the spring semester, except for the University of Minnesota system.
Earlier this month, the U's Board of Regents made the decision to shift spring break at some campuses to April instead of March, allowing for more instruction time prior to the break in case students travel and bring COVID-19 back to campus, the Star Tribune reported.
The U will decide later on whether it will do what it's doing after Thanksgiving break and switch to distance learning after spring break, the paper notes.