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Student-led petition calls for closure of Georgia State University campus on coronavirus fears

The petition, started Monday, seeks to shift classes to an online-only format, following the lead of other major universities around the nation.

ATLANTA — A petition launched by students at Georgia State University on Monday afternoon demanded that the university close its downtown Atlanta campus and shift to online-only classes as a result of the expanding coronavirus outbreak.

The petition was started on the website Change.org at 3 p.m. Monday. By 1 a.m., Tuesday, the petition had grown to more than 9,300 signatures and additional signatures were still being added. 

"Downtown campuses and other campuses of Georgia State University throughout Georgia pose a great risk of infection/transmission of the Coronavirus to both the students and the staff. Close the campuses and offer online classes for all classes until further notice to ensure the safety of all GSU members," the petition says, in part.

The petition was started by Georgia State student Jason Kusmierz and is addressed to Georgia State University President Mark Becker and the Georgia State University Office of Emergency Management.

Becker posted a message to the Georgia State University community last week, pointing out that the university is closely monitoring the illness and its spread. 

In a statement, the university said they "appreciate the perspectives of all members of our university community" and are continually developing thoughtful and coordinated plans to ensure safety, and following guidance from the CDC, the Georgia Department of Public Health and the University System of Georgia. 

"We are working hard to ensure we are able to deliver the educational programs and support services our students need throughout this public health challenge," the university said.    

Other colleges and universities have started to make proactive moves in recent days.

LIVE UPDATES: This is what's new with coronavirus in Georgia

Vanderbilt University in Nashville announced Monday evening that it was canceling classes for the remainder of this week and suspending in-person classes until March 30.

Our TEGNA sister station in Columbus, Ohio, WBNS, reported on Monday that Ohio State University is canceling in-person classes until March 30 over coronavirus concerns.

“We are suspending face-to-face instruction in lectures, discussion sections, seminars and other similar classroom settings and moving to virtual instruction, effective immediately and through at least Monday, March 30," said a statement from Ohio State president Michael V. Drake late Monday.

A few other major universities, including Princeton University, Stanford University and the University of Washington, have already suspended in-person classes. 

Yet other schools, including the University of Florida, have told students and instructors to prepare for the likelihood of similar suspensions in the coming weeks. 

Last week, the office of the Georgia State University Provost published a letter to the faculty indicating that the university was "proactively evaluating and revising" preparedness plans in order to minimize disruption to students, faculty and staff in the event the university is affected. 

"If social distancing becomes necessary, it is possible we would need to close the university for a period of time. To ensure that instruction continues, all faculty must be prepared to teach courses remotely from home," the letter said in part.

The letter goes on to provide additional resources and information on how Georgia State instructors can they can create and develop online coursework for their students in the event this becomes necessary. 

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