Home News COVID-19 Situation ENMU-R takes virus prevention steps

ENMU-R takes virus prevention steps

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Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell will extend its spring break for an additional week, is canceling large events until April 15 and will take other precautionary measures in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

ENMU-R President Shawn Powell (Submitted Photo)

ENMU-R President Shawn Powell informed faculty, staff and students about the decisions at a Friday meeting in the Performance Arts Center on campus. A notice also has been posted on the school’s website, roswell.enmu.edu.

“Our decisions are guided with the safety of our campus and the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and visitors in mind,” Powell said.

He explained that spring break, scheduled for March 16 to March 20, will be extended another week for students, although faculty and staff are expected back on campus by March 23. Large events sponsored or held at the campus are canceled until April 15. Other prevention steps include sanitizing and cleaning offices and classrooms during the extended closure and canceling all out-of-state or international travel for employees funded by the school.

“Just to let you know how serious it is, we have a Higher Learning Commission site visit the 23rd and 24th … but that will be done virtually. The visitors aren’t coming to campus because of the coronavirus,” Powell said.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is believed at this time that most cases of COVID-19 are “mild,” with few to no symptoms, although deaths have been reported in some instances. New Mexico has 10 presumptive positive tests in Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Socorro counties as of Friday.

But the New Mexico Department of Health and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency on March 11 and issued an order barring gatherings of 100 or more people, with some exceptions allowed. The gubernatorial administration, the Health Department and the Public Education Department also announced on Thursday the closure of public K-12 schools statewide until April 6.

In response to state and national actions, the main ENMU campus in Portales decided Thursday night to extend its current spring break that began March 9 until March 23, at which point all instruction will occur online or remotely. It also canceled large events and school-funded travel and will abide by athletic conference decisions about athletic events. Updates are on its website, enmu.edu.

Powell noted that some two-year college programs are challenged in how they might continue to serve students.

“I asked about 10 people yesterday if they knew how to teach welding online and no one had an answer,” he said. “So we have to figure that out.”

But he said that administrators, faculty and academic deans will work together to determine what type of instruction, clinical work, or work-study will occur after spring break. Students will be kept updated by email, he said.

While all employees are expected back by March 23, unless prior arrangements have been made with a supervisor, Powell said that the campus will work with people who need to care for children or grandchildren during school closures. College Development Officer Donna Oracion added that some parents might be able to work from home.

Powell also said that employees will continue to receive pay during closure periods and if extended leave is needed. Work-study students also will receive pay and might be able to arrange remote-working options.

The New Mexico Youth ChalleNGe Academy, a National Guard program for youth that sends some students to ENMU-R for classes, is following self-quarantine measures at the current time, according to Director Tina Sisneros, who attended the ENMU-R meeting.

“The guidance we have received both nationally and at state level is to self-quarantine, so we have canceled everything,” she said.

She said they have stopped family visitations for the time being and will work with the governor’s office about whether cadets should return home to families or remain at the Youth ChalleNGe campus.

“It is sort of one day at a time,” she said.

The dormitory on campus, Sierra Vista Village will remain open for students, including during the spring break, said General Manager Gwen Peterson of American Campus Communities. She added that group social activities will not be held during this time and that rooms vacated during the break will be cleaned and sanitized.

“If and when any cases come up (in Roswell), we do have an emergency plan” to deal with such contingencies, she said.

The on-campus child care center run by Family Resource and Referral Center will continue operating according to its usual schedule, said Executive Director Del Jurney.

He said that is also the case for the group’s other daycare center on East Bland Street. He also planned to work with Roswell Independent School District Interim Superintendent Michael Gottlieb about how to continue providing its school-age program, which operates at eight different school sites.

During his discussion with faculty and staff, Powell recommended that employees and students follow prescribed prevention guidelines and visit the websites for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) and the New Mexico Department of Health (nmhealth.org) for more information.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.