EUGENE - The University of Oregon made it official Wednesday: It will operate primarily virtual classrooms this fall due to the pandemic.

Michael Schill, UO president, said freshmen will be welcome to live on campus. But they, too, will do most classwork remotely“The decision to move to a predominantly remote and online form of instruction in the fall was not easy,” Schill said in a statement released on the UO website. “We know that the vast majority of our students are itching to get back into the classroom. Many of our faculty and staff members feel exactly the same way. However, due to a confluence of factors we need to pivot.”

The university announced in the spring that it hoped to open its campus and resume something close to normal operations this fall. But a rise this summer of new virus cases in Oregon prompted administrators to back away from that plan.

Schill said the experience of major colleges elsewhere in the country, which opened briefly and then shut their campuses down when students contracted the virus, also influenced his decision.

“All of us have watched other institutions abruptly shift gears over the last week or so, and I decided that the potential for disruption to our students and our campus community was just too high,” Schill said. “It is far more prudent for the UO to take a more phased approach.”

Incoming freshmen will be welcome to move on campus. The university will be “instituting a robust testing, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine program in our residence halls,” Schill said. “First-year students will participate in an enhanced set of safe and responsible in-person and virtual intellectual, recreational, and social experiences.”

UO’s testing plan was among several topics outlined in a letter by Schill to students on Monday.

The university hopes the stepped-up precautions will allow campus to resume more normal operations in the winter quarter.

The move to online classes has taken a toll on university finances, particularly at Oregon and Oregon State. The larger universities lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from housing and feeding students and the cancellation of sports.

Other state universities are taking a similar path. Western Oregon University announced earlier this week that it backtracking on earlier plans to open campus.

This story is published with permission as part of a statewide collaboration of news organizations to share stories. The Enterprise is part of the collaboration.

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