MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) Middlebury College has joined a growing list of schools around the country that are sending students home early and closing campuses over coronavirus concerns.
During morning classes at Middlebury College, a leaked email saying that spring break would be starting a week early started to spread around campus.
"The whole class just started talking, whispering to each other," said Nicholas Wagg, a sophomore from Maine.
"During class, screen shots leaked from the one professor who sent out an email," added Elsa Soderstron, a sophomore from Minnesota.
About a hour later, an email from the school administration confirmed that Middlebury College will dismiss students for spring break on Friday, a week ahead of schedule, and that they are planning to offer spring semester classes online.
Many students from around the country are wondering what's next. "I'm really lucky that I live so close, but for so many people it's going to be so hard to get home,"Wagg said.
"I'm glad they are doing what they have to do, but I'm also stressed," said Daniela Main, a sophomore from California.
"My sister goes to school in Washington and she is still out there and they haven't made plans yet. It seems kind of sudden that we are going home and she hasn't yet," Soderstron said.
College officials say the decision was made after they learned a visitor to a campus sporting event tested positive for the coronavirus. The school says the department of health tells them the person was not a threat to spread the virus at the time of their visit.
"In this scenario, we are all going home to different places and different areas and traveling to so many places where we can get germs or infected, instead of all being here," Soderstron said.
"I think it's a smart move considering the virus affecting students in a really populated space," said Katie Kim, a sophomore from New Jersey.
Middlebury officials declined an on camera interview but said in a statement: "The rapidly developing circumstances of the novel coronavirus now require extraordinary changes to our usual practices to fulfill those obligations. We are making these changes to maximize our ability to continue the core educational activities that are our mission—teaching classes."
The school says that after the extended spring break, they are planning to offer spring semester classes online-only at the end of the month. They said they will re-evaluate the new policy in the first two weeks of April.
Students we spoke with said they would rather be on campus.
As of now, SUNY Plattsburgh, Dartmouth, St. Michael's, Norwich, Champlain and the five Vermont State Colleges have no plans to cancel in-person classes, but they are all monitoring the situation and could change their minds. UVM officials say it would take a confirmed coronavirus case in their campus community for them to go online only.