New changes planned for 2020-2021: Coronavirus impacts the fall and spring semesters

Isabella Gentile, Editor-in-Chief

Colleges and universities across the nation have been working to decide how the 2020-2021 academic calendar will look while dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. An earlier fall start date, later spring start date and the elimination of spring break are amongst other new changes President Miaoulis announced tonight.

Fall courses will begin on Aug. 26, one week earlier than the initially planned start date of Sept. 2. This means that move-in dates will be earlier too, with fall athletes moving in on Aug. 14-15, a phased first-year student move-on from Aug. 16-19 and a phased returning student move-in on Aug. 21. Returning students will receive specific check-in dates over the next few weeks.

In a move similar to that of other universities, RWU will end in-person instruction on Nov. 24 before Thanksgiving break. This is being done in order to end this type of instruction before the U.S. typically enters its peak flu season, which could coincide with another coronavirus outbreak. Final projects and presentations will be done through remote class instruction until Dec. 3. Final exams will be delivered online from Dec. 7-Dec. 10.

The newly modified academic calendar brings along other changes for the fall. Labor Day and Columbus Day, university-recognized holidays when classes typically do not meet, will now become instructional days. Courses that meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will require two additional class meetings.

The spring semester of 2021 will be impacted by changes as well. Classes will begin on Feb. 1 and President’s Day will also become a day of instruction. The university will eliminate Spring Break, initially scheduled from March 6-14. and move straight through with instruction. May 10 will be the last day of classes and final exams will be held from May 11-17. On the new calendar, commencement is scheduled for Saturday, May 22, 2021.

Though Miaoulis is committed to having in-person instruction in the fall, the university is also presenting alternative learning opportunities. Students will be able to design their own semesters, and that could mean taking all classes remotely while participating in internships, research or community-engaged work in their own communities. According to Miaoulis, teams are currently designing and implementing new models for this type of work that will meet student needs.

Aside from academic planning, many members of the university have also been working to determine how students will be able to live and spend time on campus safely. Miaoulis said the university’s preliminary plan is nearing completion and will be submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Health no later than June 15. Details of the final plan will be shared with students in July.

“As the country slowly begins its slow reopening, I hope that you remain safe and healthy,” Miaoulis said. “While I wish you a wonderful summer, I’m also counting down the days until I get to see you all again!”