Fearing a Second Wave of Covid-19, Some Colleges Will End Fall Semester Early

Published: 05/23/2020

Source: https://bit.ly/2AYG113

Updated at 3 p.m., Eastern time, on May 21, to add the fall-semester plans of four North Carolina universities.

With infectious-disease experts forecasting recurring waves of Covid-19 contagion, a number of colleges are coalescing around a plan to send students home by Thanksgiving this fall.

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Hundreds of institutions have pledged to return to in-person classes in August, after the coronavirus forced them to move instruction online in the spring. While some of those colleges intend to return to normal operations, others have configured their calendars with earlier start and end dates.

Rice University, a private institution in Houston with about 7,000 students, will have an abbreviated fall semester. While students will report to campus as scheduled, the semester will end in November — about a month earlier than usual.

“We decided to make that decision more quickly than other schools in order to make sure we have the maximum time to prepare,” said David W. Leebron, Rice’s president. He added that the decision was made in late April.

Epidemiologists say coronavirus infections might return this year either as a second, potentially larger wave or as “a storm of wavelets,” according to The New York Times. The news comes as more states relax restrictions and allow restaurants and retail centers to reopen across the country.

The Universities of North Carolina at Greensboro, Notre Dame, South Carolina, San Diego, and Texas at Austin, along with Creighton and North Carolina A&T State Universities, are all planning to end their fall semesters early. North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill both signed on to the Thanksgiving plan on Thursday.

At Notre Dame, students will report to campus two weeks early — August 10 instead of August 24. The university has also canceled its regular fall break and plans to send its students home before Thanksgiving. The Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, wrote that students’ travel over fall break could have raised the risk for infections on campus.

“A particular epidemiological challenge for college campuses arises when students leave for breaks, are exposed to infectious agents, and return to campus and possibly spread infections to others,” Jenkins wrote in a letter to the faculty.

The threat of a second wave, coupled with the fact that a majority of Rice students aren’t from Texas, was a “major factor” in changing the fall semester’s end date, Leebron said.

Masks and Thermometers

Many institutions that plan to resume face-to-face fall classes are taking steps to keep students and their teachers safe. Requiring masks in public spaces, checking temperatures as students enter classrooms, and disinfecting and cleaning more frequently are all on the table as institutions mull scenarios for reopening.

The University of California at San Diego intends to test and monitor thousands of students on its 65,000-person campus, and it is rolling out a pilot project to gauge the feasibility of such mass testing.

Source: https://bit.ly/2AYG113

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