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Harford Community College closes early for spring break due to coronavirus concerns; online classes planned

Amid growing concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, Harford Community College canceled all classes Thursday and Friday and will “implement an online working and learning environment” following spring break.

The college’s spring break is scheduled for March 15 through March 22.

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The campus will remain closed the following week, March 23 to 29, switching to an online only learning and working environment for that week. All campus events scheduled for the week of March 23 will be canceled or postponed.

The college will make a determination on when to reopen campus and resume face-to-face instruction over the next two weeks.

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“At present, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among HCC students or employees, and we have no reason to believe that there is cause for immediate concern on campus," Dr. Jacqueline Jackson, interim president of Harford Community College, said in a prepared statement.

"However, we recognize that the number of coronavirus cases in Maryland is growing, and that many of our sister institutions are taking proactive steps to minimize the risk to students and employees. We also understand that many people will be traveling over spring break, and this poses potential risks to the campus community.”

Jess Rafalko, a communications specialist for the college, said HCC is “fortunate to have existing software and tools in place to make this transition as smooth as possible.”

The academic affairs team is working with existing technology and programs already being used at the college to assist faculty and students with the transition to online-only instruction. she said.

“If students have questions about what online instruction will look like for their particular courses, they should reach out directly to their instructor,” she said.

Campus leaders have been monitoring the virus since January and consulting with the Harford County Health Department for several weeks, Rafalko said.

“The decision to move online was most recently informed by the discovery of confirmed coronavirus cases in Maryland and the emerging best practice from other colleges and universities to minimize the spread of the virus by closing campuses and shifting to remote instruction,” she said.

The college is continuing to work with the county health department and the Harford County Executive’s Office to identify and implement appropriate precautionary measures on campus, according to a news release.

“It is only out of an abundance of caution that the college is closing,” Jackson said. “We are fortunate to have the capacity to temporarily shift to an online-only environment, and are taking advantage of this option because we believe it is in the best interest of our campus community.”

Over spring break, the college’s contracted cleaning crew will be cleaning and disinfecting in accordance with CDC recommendations for community facilities, which includes schools, Rafalko said.

The Harford Community College Ticket Office also posted a notice that events from March 12 to March 30 would be canceled or, if possible, postponed, including The Golden Dragon Acrobats performance this Sunday. Refunds will be processed by the close of business Friday, the college said. Cash and check refunds can be processed at the Chesapeake Center Box Office once the college resumes normal activities.

Updated information will be communicated to students and employees via the HCCAlertMe system and will be posted on www.harford.edu/coronavirus.

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