The U.S. Naval Academy is delaying the return of midshipmen from spring break through March 28.
The Annapolis-based service academy announced the extension Thursday amid continued concern over the spread of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, and as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan closed the state’s public school system beginning March 16 through March 27.
The Academy now joins a growing list of colleges and universities across the country that are extending spring breaks or shuttering their campuses and moving online for the remainder of the semester.
Earlier this week, the Navy Recruit Training Command announced it was barring all guests from boot camp and officer graduations.
“There are NO plans to shut down the Naval Academy,” Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck wrote in a letter posted to the institution’s web site. “Please continue to coordinate with your supervisors regarding your work schedule.”
In addition, the Patriot League — which counts the Midshipmen as members for most non-football varsity sports — announced it was cancelling all spring sports.
Midshipmen began their spring break March 7 and were expected to return Sunday. While they might not have to come back to campus for another 14 days, the Academy is prepping so that midshipmen will commence remote studies on March 20, Buck wrote.
Buck referred to the Academy as a “low-risk area” in a letter to parents, but recognized the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the need to prep for contingencies.
“My strategic goals for addressing COVID-19 are twofold: 1) protect our midshipmen, faculty, staff, and coaches, and slow down COVID-19, as we are planning for the likelihood of it being transmitted here; 2) complete the semester, and graduate and commission the class of 2020,” he wrote.
The extension “will allow for our medical team to receive medical supplies and be better prepared to assess and treat midshipmen upon their return, as well as time for our faculty to prepare to teach the brigade remotely," Buck added.
“We are currently discussing mitigation measures throughout USNA which will affect the daily life of midshipmen, to include dining arrangements in King Hall, academic classes, physical fitness, events, etc., as well as planning for the reintegration of the midshipmen," Buck said.
Before midshipmen left for break, the Academy held mandatory training for all personnel — including faculty, staff and coaches — about COVID-19, school spokesperson Cmdr. Alana Garas told Navy Times in an email late Thursday. That included information about the spread, symptoms, prevention and treatment of the disease and what to do if someone became sick.
“Direction was given to follow the guidelines put out by the CDC at that time, to include travel notice warnings,” Garas said.
Courtney Mabeus is a senior writer at Navy Times. Mabeus previously covered the military for The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier.