AURORA, IL — Aurora University will offer most of its classes through an online platform during the fall semester, officials announced this week, stating there is no way to safely welcome students back to classrooms during the coronavirus pandemic.

University officials and staff members spent weeks locked in discussions over how to safely offer in-person classes at its Aurora campus but determined it could not be done, President Rebecca Sherrick said in a letter to students and parents.

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“Our first priority remains the safety and security of the university’s students, faculty and staff,” Sherrick said. “By extension, we recognize also an obligation to the welfare of the extended AU family that includes parents, siblings, grandparents, children, friends and partners.”

That obligation has led the university to scrap its plans to put students in classrooms, Sherrick said.

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“The optimism of June now gives way to the hard reality of July,” Sherrick said. “AU leaders realize that a local resurgence of the virus likely would outpace AU’s ability to sustain a safe campus environment.”

The academic year is set to start on Aug. 24, with officials to soon release more information about on-campus housing options. University facilities, like the library and computers labs, will be open for students to use, and a new laptop loan program will also be available, Sherrick said.

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Campus office will be open and staffed, with counseling and tutoring available to students, though appointments will be required in most cases. Officials said faculty members plan to offer additional office hours to hold face-to-face — or “mask-to-mask” — meetings with individual students.

The university will not be adjusting tuition rates for the fall semester “barring an unanticipated catastrophic event,” after offering room-and-board refunds and suspending late fees during the spring semester, according to officials.

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The decision to scrap in-person classes primarily affects the university’s Aurora campus, with announcements to be made soon about classes at George Williams College in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, and the Woodstock Center, Sherrick said.

Sherrick said she understood the university’s “decision will disappoint some and will be a source of relief for others” as parents struggle with how to ensure their children receive a quality education during the pandemic.

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“A year ago, none of us had heard of the virus that now has cost so many lives and livelihoods,” Sherrick said. “The virus is a relentless enemy. I know, too, that improved prevention and treatment options will be developed. And so we go forward together, imbued with the Spartan spirit for perseverance, resilience and compassion.”

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This article originally appeared on the Aurora Patch

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