BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College announced Monday that it will continue remote learning for the remainder of the spring semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since first learning of this profound global crisis, the health and safety of our community has been — and will continue to be — our foremost priority,” President Tamara Nichols Rodenberg said in announcing the decision.

She acknowledged the disappointment expressed by Bethany seniors whose college experience was stopped abruptly by COVID-19 and said the college is committed to providing a meaningful graduation experience.

Bethany will host an online degree conferral on May 9. In addition, the class of 2020 and family members are invited to return to campus Aug. 20 for a traditional commencement ceremony. The ceremony will kick off the 2020-2021 academic year.

In following state and national social distancing guidelines, Bethany will also adapt its comprehensive exams to an online format beginning May 4. Bethany students are required to pass comprehensive examinations in their field of study to graduate.

“I want to commend our community for continuing to put our students first,” Rodenberg said. “We deeply miss our students. … Bethany has always been a college defined by resilience and lasting connections — now more than ever.”

Bethany initially announced March 12 that it would extended its spring break by one week and begin remote instruction on March 23.

Faculty and staff also are working remotely.

“The decisions the Cabinet and I have had to make during the past few weeks for the health and safety of our community have all centered on a shared goal to emerge from this global health crisis stronger and more united in our beloved mission,” Rodenberg said.

The college also announced that it will refund a pro-rated portion of students’ room and board fees with guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and West Virginia’s State System of Higher Education. Any refunds will be applied first to outstanding balances or credited to room and board for the 2020-2021 academic year. Seniors graduating in May will receive a refund either through direct deposit or check.

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Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.