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BOONE — Appalachian State University and other UNC system institutions will continue online and alternative course delivery through summer 2020, UNC system President Bill Roper announced March 30.

“This means we will continue our online and alternative course delivery methods through the remainder of this semester and for both Summer I and Summer II sessions,” Appalachian announced on its website. “Deans have already begun working with department chairs and faculty to determine which classes will be offered this summer. We are working to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, students will have access to classes they need to stay on track for their planned graduation dates.”

Roper’s announcement took place during a special meeting of the UNC system Board of Governors. He noted that the UNC system is committed to prorated reimbursements of payments for unused housing and dining services as a result of the UNC System’s rapid response to COVID-19.

“We understand this is a stressful time for many in our community, and we are taking the necessary steps to help reduce the spread of the virus,” the university system stated. “We appreciate our entire UNC system community’s participation in helping us reduce the spread.”

Appalachian State said it would send additional information about dining and housing refunds to students, parents, faculty and staff as soon as it has further information and guidance from the system.

Local businesses and restaurants have seen a sharp decline in customers due to the departure of many students and staff from the campus community, in addition to other COVID-19-related closures and impacts. Boone Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Jackson said the extension of online courses was not unexpected, however, and said the business community remains hopeful that staff, vendors and others will gradually return over the summer as the university campus returns to normal business operations.

“If we can bring back some of those ancillary communities, it would certainly help,” Jackson said.

In her remarks to the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees on March 27, Appalachian Chancellor Sheri Everts summarized the efforts to respond to COVID-19 and the suspension of on-campus instruction.

Faculty and staff worked to transition 2,600 course sections from face-to-face to online learning in two weeks, she said, and nearly 600 faculty took part in workshops, support and training sessions within one week to prepare.

Residence halls were closed to students unless they were approved for an exception to stay on campus, reducing on-campus residents from more than 5,600 to fewer than 130, Everts stated.

More than 2,150 faculty and staff are working from home or off-campus locations.

The university brought 128 students home from international programs and suspended or canceled 58 more international programs that were scheduled to begin this semester and this summer.

Everts said the university has limited expenditures to essential spending and is continuing to closely monitor its resources and COVID-19-related expenditures. Roper announced on March 24 that system universities will temporarily suspend salary adjustments, position actions (including creating new positions or modifications to existing positions) and new hires to “permit maximum focus on the university’s COVID-19 response.”

In addition, Everts said, the university has coordinated and participated in the provision of curbside meals for the campus community; the cleaning of residence halls, offices and public spaces with increased frequency; and the support of the emergency response and relief efforts of the broader High Country community.

Appalachian State University on March 27 announced the creation of the Mountaineer Emergency Fund to help students who are facing financial challenges that are significant barriers to academic success, with short-term grants to help cover expenses such as child care, food, prescriptions, housing, books and other needs. For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/s9t9ddp.

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