We are now approaching the end of the fall semester. Given the circumstances of the expanding pandemic, we have made it through the term with remarkable safety, preserving as much as we reasonably and responsibly could of our educational programs and related activities. Our success was the result of your commitment, creativity, positive attitude, and the high degree of compliance you have shown with all of the University’s health and safety protocols.
We have carefully considered the various operations of the fall term and how they worked, and we continue to watch very closely all of the reliable information available about the circumstances of the continuing pandemic, including projected time frames for the progress of the virus and the growing probability of the wide availability of a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. On the basis of that information, I am announcing today a revised plan for the spring semester that will continue to improve the University’s ability to offer students a strong educational experience and to offer both students and employees a safe environment.
The safety protocols for the fall semester worked well for both instruction and work on campus, and that experience has provided valuable insight into how we can continue to improve on our planning. The major elements of the plan for the spring term will incorporate all the current health and safety protocols, will continue a balance of on-campus and remote work and study, and will incorporate the following adjustments:
Spring Semester Calendar Change
1. Adjustment to the spring instructional calendar:
- Spring semester classes will begin on Monday, February 8, 2021.
- There will be no spring break.
- The spring semester will end during the week of May 24.
A detailed calendar for spring will be published in early December. The purpose of the calendar adjustment is to delay the spring semester until the height of the winter pandemic surge has begun to diminish, to permit more time for re-equipping campus safety measures, to eliminate the dangers of spread of the virus through the travel that occurs with a spring break, and to move the term closer to the time when vaccination opportunities will become available.
2. Registration for spring courses: Students who have already registered for courses under the old calendar do not have to do anything. The registration will be the same in the new calendar. Students who have any concerns about registration for the spring should seek assistance from the Advising Center of their College or School, from Red Hawk Central, or from the Office of the Dean of their College or School.
3. Instructional methods: Courses for the spring will include, as planned, both remote instruction and on-campus instruction in accordance with instructional plans developed in each of the Colleges and Schools. Basic information about all courses will be posted before the beginning of the spring semester so that there is clarity for students about how the course will be offered.
Health and Safety Protocols
1. Temperature Checkpoints: Equipment is being procured to add more widespread temperature checkpoints as an addition to the University’s health protocols.
2. Testing: The University will expand its COVID-19 surveillance testing program and will prepare a revised testing plan for the spring term based on the experience and information garnered from the fall term program.
3. Outdoor Instructional and Activity Space: One of the major successes of the fall term was the effective use of outdoor space on campus for instruction and other activities. Work is underway to increase the availability of such outdoor spaces.
4. Visitor policies: In mid-November, the University increased restrictions on access to academic buildings and residence halls by visitors. Visitor policies will be further developed, increasing control and protocols for all visitors to campus.
5. Communications: A number of communication mechanisms for students have been and will continue to be enhanced to provide greater clarity and to provide updated health information as the circumstances of the pandemic continue to evolve and as the opportunity for vaccination becomes a reality.
Choosing to live on campus for the spring term may be the best decision for many students in any major, School or College for a number of reasons. Students living on campus receive regular surveillance testing and live in “a bubble” where the risk of transmission is much reduced. The campus is a safe place to study and live.
Students who live on campus will have highest priority for seats in courses that provide on-campus instruction. Living on campus provides students with good connectivity for online coursework, good study spaces, access to computer centers, the library, and other campus resources, a focused place to pursue studies without distractions, and access to safe activities and health services if needed.
For those reasons, the University recommends that even students who usually commute should carefully consider the advantages to living on campus for the spring semester. Detailed information about on-campus living opportunities for spring and about the availability of financial assistance for on-campus housing and dining will be published in mid-December.
Residence Life Adjustments for Spring
1. Students in Higher Risk Programs and Activities: Students in specific higher-contact and hence higher-risk programs and activities will be strongly encouraged to live on campus to pursue those programs. Such programs will include: Theatre and Dance students, Student-Athletes, and students in certain Nursing programs that require clinical placements. Those students will be housed with their program cohorts to keep their “bubble” as safe as possible. Students in those programs who need financial assistance for on-campus housing and dining costs will be contacted to determine any additional need.
2. Residential Life Calendar: Students who have opted to remain in housing during the winter term and who are registered for spring housing may remain in housing during the period between the end of winter term and the beginning of the spring term at no additional cost.
3. Residence Hall Check-In: All students will be required to present evidence of a negative COVID test, taken no more than three days before return to the residence halls, for the spring semester. Students will be able to check in for housing beginning Monday, January 25, 2021. Students who are required to quarantine for 14 days before the start of classes will be provided the early dates. Students will be required to check out from housing, as per normal procedures, no later than 24 hours following their last final examination.
4. Requirement to Stay on Campus: Students in the residence halls will be required to remain on campus during the spring term to prevent importing the virus from off-campus to the residence halls. Once a student checks into housing, the campus becomes their permanent and exclusive home for the semester. Students who must leave the campus for work, to meet clinical or internship requirements, get medical care, or for emergencies will be permitted to do so, but they will be required to get formal approval and follow special health protocols upon their return to campus.
As previously noted, while the residence halls remained very safe for students this fall, most of the virus cases that did occur for residential students were caused by students who left campus to see family or attend social gatherings off campus and then brought the virus back with them to roommates and other close contacts.
I know that all of us look forward to the time, and hopefully that will be the fall 2021 term, when the University will be able to return to our normal modes of operation. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. The spring term will still be governed by the demands of life in the midst of the pandemic, but we have learned a great deal about how to manage the challenges we have been given. With thoughtful planning, commitment, and creativity, we will be able to offer a successful spring term, one in which we can garner the positive energy of advancing toward the light, with each step taking us further away from the darkness of winter.
If you have questions regarding any of this, contact email@example.com.