This story was updated Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 10:15 p.m. with more information.
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UPDATE: Following a Thursday morning online chapel service, Lee University President Paul Conn notified students that the school's campus will not reopen for the remainder of the semester.
For the first time in Lee University's history, its popular Lee Day weekend will be redesigned as a virtual event amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, according to a news release from the school.
President Paul Conn announced the change on Thursday in addition to an extension of the school's virtual classes to April 13.
The first virtual classes took place on Thursday using video-conferencing platform Zoom in the place of face-to-face instruction.
"There's two ways to approach this," Conn said. "When this crisis began some schools just closed it all down, emptied out the dorms, shuttered campus, and cancelled commencement. That's one approach. It works best in terms of the institution. It's more efficient, and it saves money for the school. But many schools like Lee have adopted a 'wait and see' approach and tried to make decisions as things change."
Lee Day, the university's largest recruitment event of the year, is scheduled for April 3-4. Hundreds of high school students and their families and friends typically visit the Cleveland campus for orientations, events, and other activities. School officials are currently designing a plan to present Lee Day through Zoom and other digital platforms, the release states.
The original goal of the school was to resume face-to-face classes by March 30, but changed "based on all guidance from government, public health, and higher education authorities," according to the release.
"This creates tension of not knowing what is going to happen, but we believe this gives us the best chance to salvage the semester for our students, and to make the best decisions as we go forward," Conn said. "If we see that the April 13 date doesn't provide a safe environment for our students and staff, we will announce that decision at the earliest possible time. We want to give ourselves time to make the best decisions, based on the rapidly evolving situation, as we go along."
The university calendar will change with the new plan, and additional adjustments will be made to the final exam schedule after three weeks of on-campus classes. Currently, commencement exercises could go on as scheduled, the release states.