President Fr. Mark Poorman has announced that the University intends to begin the 2020 fall semester as scheduled, with modifications to accommodate for concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement came Tuesday in an email to all students, staff and faculty. Poorman’s email outlined the following modifications:
Staggered move-in for on-campus students will begin Monday, Aug.17.
Move-in week will include mandatory orientation and coursework sessions concerning health and safety concerns.
Fall break is canceled.
In-person instruction will end on Nov. 25 before Thanksgiving.
Final exams will be online the week of Nov. 30-Dec. 3, instead of in-person Dec. 7-10 as originally scheduled.
“Students and families should wait for further instructions prior to making travel plans and other arrangements for their return to campus during the first half of the week of August 17,” Poorman’s email said, adding that canceling fall break will decrease the amount of travel done by UP community members, reducing the chance of infection being spread back to the community when classes resume.
Multiple other universities including the University of Notre Dame, UP’s sister school, plan to end their semesters in late November instead of mid-December. Health officials have expressed concerns that the possible resurgence of COVID-19, in combination with the U.S. flu season, could overwhelm the U.S. healthcare system.
Poorman mentioned changes to campus life as students return for the fall semester. These changes will include adhering to social distancing rules, “de-densification” of residence halls, academic buildings and other campus spaces, contact tracing, protective gear such as face masks, and constant cleaning.
Universities across the country have begun to announce tentative plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools, like UP, plan to cancel fall break and end the semester early; others have opted for a late start, while still others, such as the University of California, don’t foresee in-person instruction resuming until spring.
Poorman acknowledged that directives from “local, state and federal health authorities” could force continuous re-adjustment of the University’s plans.
“We cannot rule out the need to quickly return to virtual instruction or make further modifications to the academic calendar,” Poorman wrote. The email said that students should expect more details from the University in the coming months.
Gabi DiPaulo is the editor-in-chief for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.