Four universities are now publicly preparing for a fall semester that begins in person and then switches to remote instruction and assessment after Thanksgiving break. Officials at these institutions say that choice is motivated by the belief that a resurgence in the new coronavirus is most likely near the end of the term.
"Our plan is to have students on campus early, when the probability of disease is lower, and to adjourn campus-based classes the Friday before Thanksgiving, offering online only final exams the week after," officials at Regis University wrote in a letter to parents. "With this plan, if a second surge occurs around Thanksgiving, your child will already be safely at home."
Faculty at Regis will be equipped to teach simultaneously in person and over Zoom, the announcement said.
"Our best current modelling predicts a spike in cases of COVID-19 at the beginning of December, which also will likely coincide with traditional flu season," Bob Caslen, president of the university, said in an announcement.
The university also chose to cancel its fall break, typically held in mid-October.
"The public health risks associated with thousands of students and faculty returning to campus after fall break travels could be significant for the campus and Columbia communities and could jeopardize the continuation of the semester," Caslen wrote in the announcement.
Purdue University also has indicated that classes may go virtual after Thanksgiving. On May 7, trustees approved a resolution authorizing university leadership to allow for a semester that runs August to Thanksgiving, "with the balance of the semester to be completed thereafter by remote means and methods, and with the elimination of customary fall breaks," according to a news release.
Purdue leadership has also been authorized to require the annual influenza vaccine for all students, faculty and staff on campus.
“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” Reverend John Jenkins, the university's president, said in a statement. “Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”