As pandemic persists, colleges upend their spring plans for in-person learning, graduation

Numerous universities and colleges have changed their spring plans as the coronavirus infection rate in the US shows no signs of slowing.
After a rocky start to fall, uncertainty over the next few months of the pandemic has driven universities from coast to coast to overhaul in-person learning, spring break and graduation.
Colleges and universities in California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina, Indiana, Vermont, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Washington state have already announced changes, and more are almost certain to follow.
"That decision [to study virtually] is the only one we have at this stage," said California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White in a September 10 press release announcing that the 23rd College system will continue virtual lessons through the spring.
At the time, Cal State was one of the few universities that needed virtual spring classes.
Then on September 29, the University of California at Berkeley announced that most of the classes would be online. Washington State University's Provost announced on Sept. 30 that the school plans to have most spring classes online, according to local reports.
More recently, George Washington University put most classes online for the spring semester of 2021 on October 9.
Other schools, such as Wichita State University and Carnegie Mellon University, offer students a choice of courses completed entirely online or a hybrid model that combines limited in-person tuition and online tuition.
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However, there is no clear consensus on learning styles for the spring semester.
But a growing number of colleges have postponed their start times either a week, a month, or, in the case of Middlebury College, Vermont, two months. The college plans to begin its spring semester on March 1st.
At many schools, administrators have also decided to cancel plans for the spring break.
Some instead add shorter holidays that are spread over the semester. Purdue University in Indiana mandates three individual "reading days" for students. Davidson College in North Carolina offers two short midweek breaks to students in March and April. Texas A&M University shortens the spring break to a single day in March.
Others, however, have chosen to cancel the vacation entirely to cut travel costs and minimize the spread of infection.
"Losing the spring break will be a disappointment for many," said Reno President Brian Sandoval of the University of Nevada, a campus ending the break. "But an uninterrupted spring semester ... gives us the best chance of protecting the pack."
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The university has not yet canceled or changed its personal start in May 2021. For most locations, this date is still in the works depending on what winter and early spring look like for the rest of the country.
However, some have already started planning a personal or virtual degree. Many personal plans, such as those at the University of Mississippi and the University of Notre Dame, are conditional - depending on whether the pandemic worsens in winter and spring.
At other universities, such as George Washington, officials have said it is unlikely to begin in person. GWU officials predict the restrictions on collecting will remain in place through May 2021.
"Managing this pandemic has challenged all of us to do our part to maintain the health and safety of the community and to support one another in making these difficult decisions," officials said.
Contributors: Ed Komenda and Andrew Mendez, Reno Gazette Journal
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: COVID-19 Disrupted College Spring Reopening Calendar

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