CWU cancels spring commencement

Mariah Valles and Nicholas Tucker

Note: This story will be updated as information becomes available.

March 20, 2 p.m. – CWU cancels in-person commencement

CWU will not host an in-person graduation ceremony in spring due to COVID-19. 

The CWU Board of Trustees held a special meeting today from 1-2 p.m. to discuss university impacts caused by COVID-19. Graduation was briefly talked about during the meeting. 

CWU President James L. Gaudino said while there will be no in-person ceremony, the university is looking for ways to still provide the “essence” of graduation to students. 

“That’s an important event for everybody at Central Washington University,” Gaudino said. “If by epidemiological standards the risk goes down sufficiently, that is an event we could reestablish relatively quickly. Maybe not in all of the elaborate fixtures and screens but we could have an in-person graduation, but there’s no indication in any of the literature I am reading that that is a likelihood.”


March 19, noon – CWU moves labs online

CWU President James Gaudino announced today, in an email to the student body, more measures the university will be taking to slow the spread of COVID-19. These measures include the suspension of all university-sponsored travel and face-to-face classes, including labs, until the end of spring quarter.

“Until unfolding events become clearer, we must begin immediately to take the steps needed to sustain our service to students and the community,” the email states. “After consultation with health officials, academic leadership, faculty representatives, senior administrators, and members of our Board of Trustees, I am announcing new operating policies that will continue through the 2020 Spring Quarter.”

Prior to this email it was announced that while most classes would be moved online, some exceptions would be made when this is unfeasible, such as in the case of labs or performances. The classes which were previously considered exceptions are now included as suspended activities. 

Gaudino also suspended other university operations, including all hiring processes.


March 16, 3:45 p.m. – CWU closes academic buildings for spring break, tells employees to work from home

Today CWU President James Gaudino announced that academic buildings will be closed for the duration of spring break. All employees have also been instructed to work from home. According to the email, this will be effective until April 8 when spring quarter classes begin

“COVID-19 is compelling unprecedented change in Washington State,” Gaudino writes. “University leaders are meeting daily and sometimes hourly to adapt our operations to new government dictates and new conditions.”

The email goes on to specify that some positions cannot be worked remotely and that some exceptions will be made by supervisors.


March 13, 3 p.m. – CWU pushes back start to spring by a week, moves classes online

CWU has moved the start to spring quarter back by a week. The quarter will now begin on April 8 instead of March 31. When classes begin, they will primarily be online.

This is according to an email from the provost’s office which came shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee made an announcement this afternoon. Inslee said all K-12 schools will be closed for six weeks in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

“To the fullest extent possible, all academic operations will be moved online,” the email from said. “This procedural change applies to the main campus and to all CWU centers and sites.”

According to the email, this includes classes, academic advising and other educational activities. For classes and labs that cannot be moved online, the maximum number of students enrolled will be 25. The technology fee for online courses will be waived for spring quarter.

Even with classes being moved primarily online, the campus will remain open. This includes residence halls, dining services, the library, computer labs, all buildings and facilities. 

“Students are welcomed and encouraged to remain on campus, and all employees will continue working in some modality, as determined by their supervisors,” the email reads. “Continuous employment for student workers is a high priority for the university.”

University-sponsored, in person events are cancelled through April 30.


March 10, noon – CWU classes remain normal, all finals moved online 

All final examinations have been moved online, according to an email sent by CWU Interim Provost Lynn Franken this morning. Franken said final examinations March 17-20 will not be given in class, in laboratories or in any face-to-face setting.

Exceptions, including exceptions related to disability accommodations, will be considered on a case-by-case basis, through recommendation by the department chair and approval by the dean of the college,” Franken wrote.

Franken said students will be notified of all approved exceptions.

“Throughout this process, three guiding principles have informed our decision-making:  safeguarding our community; protecting the continuity and quality of the educational experience of our students, and participating in the international effort to curb the spread of COVID-19,” Franken wrote. 

All classes will be taught as normal for the remaining of the week. 

Franken’s notice states that as the COVID-19 status in the area becomes more clear, the university may have to make adjustments for spring quarter.  

“To ensure readiness in case it may become necessary, faculty members are encouraged to prepare for transitioning in-class course work to modalities that would allow students to work from their residence halls or from home,” Franken wrote.



March 9, 7:45 p.m. – Theatre professor possibly exposed to COVID-19, finals moved online

Department officials have indicated in emails to their students that next week’s finals will be moved online following a theatre professor’s possible exposure to COVID-19. They have also indicated that classes will continue as normal for the final week of instruction.

“Central Washington University will be announcing all finals during finals week will be delivered online,” Theatre Department Chair Christina Barrigan wrote.

A CWU Theatre department professor emailed students on Monday, March 9, stating class procedures would be moved online following his exposure to COVID-19. 

The email was provided to The Observer by a student. 

I have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus and have been quarantined at home for the next 2 weeks. I am fine, though I am just getting over a cold I have had since early last week,” the professor said in the email.

Earlier in the afternoon, CWU public affairs officials said they could not speak on the matter and to contact the Kittitas County Public Health Department (KCPHD) for information.

KCPHD Public Information Officer Kasey Knutson said she could not legally disclose medical information, citing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws.

“We take confidentiality very seriously and are also required by law to not disclose medical information,” Knutson said.


Theatre Department

Following the email from the professor to their students, Theatre Department Chair Christina Barrigan announced that all finals would be moved online.

On Friday, [professor’s name] reported to me that his partner had been ‘quarantined by the state’ due to potential exposure to COVID-19,” Barrigan wrote. “After a conversation with Dean Hernandez, we have asked him to observe the quarantine too as a preventative measure.”

According to the email Barrigan wrote, there are no testing kits available to him or his partner at this time to confirm exposure or illness from COVID-19.

“Central Washington University will be announcing all finals during finals week will be delivered online,” Barrigan wrote. “There will as few face-to-face finals as is possible. There may be exceptions, please watch your email.” 


Music Department

Finals being moved was announced to music students on March 9 in an email sent by Kirsten Boldt-Neurohr, advising and recruiting specialist for the department. 

“I will preface this message to tell you that you will receive an official announcement with details from the University later today,” Boldt-Neurohr wrote. 

She wrote that finals can be given to students this week, March 9-13, and that faculty have been told they “must allow study time for students before the exam is administered.”

The email said the music building will be closed after March 16. It also says all room reservations in the building are cancelled for finals week and spring break.



March 7, 6 p.m. – CWU to remain open following positive COVID-19 test in county

CWU will remain open and classes will not be moved online following the first positive COVID-19 case in Kittitas County.

“As of now, we are not moving classes online,” CWU Vice President of Public Affairs Kremiere Jackson said. “We will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and should it change, we will take the appropriate action.”

Jackson said there has been an increase in the number of times custodial staff disinfects common touch points such as door handles, elevator buttons, restrooms and kitchens. She also said there has been an increase in hand sanitizing stations in buildings on campus. 

The “Flu Fighters,” a group of students who clean the SURC, enter the building several times a day to clean heavily used surfaces.

“We will continue to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and collaborate with the Kittitas Valley Public Health Department and Kittitas Valley Hospital,” Jackson said. 

As of March 7 at 11 a.m, there were 102 COVID-19 cases in Washington state and 16 total deaths. The chart has not been updated since the Kittitas County case was announced as positive. 


March 7, 11 a.m. – Kittitas County resident tests positive for COVID-19

A 67-year-old woman in Kittitas County has tested positive for COVID-19. The results are “presumptive positive,” meaning they still need to be sent to the Washington State Department of Health for total confirmation.

The woman is in stable condition and is in isolation with her spouse at home, according to a Kittitas County press release. She was seen at a local clinic and the healthcare providers who had contact with her are being asked to self-isolate. 

According to an updated press release sent on March 7 at 11:30 a.m., the woman is active in different recreational clubs across different counties.

The Kittitas County Public Health Department (KCPHD) is contacting businesses and agencies in the county were the patient visited while infectious, according to the updated release. KCPHD is also working with the patient to gather information and begin contacting potential close contacts.

On March 6, KCPHD declared a state of emergency, before there was any positive COVID-19 case. 

“The declaration comes in response to increased testing and contact investigations within our county,” a March 6 press release stated. “This is all preemptive and provides for additional resources to Kittitas County.”

Additional information will be added to this story as it becomes available.