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Penn State Delays Spring Semester’s Start, Cancels Spring Break

Update, Thursday, October 8: Penn State will add an unspecified number of non-instructional “wellness days” to its spring semester calendar in the absence of spring break.

The university won’t host classes these days, but Penn State’s offices will remain open.

Penn State hasn’t yet finalized dates for these days or even settled on an approximate number, though. The university is forming a dedicated committee to iron out the details and expects to provide more information soon.

Original Story: Penn State has delayed the start of its spring 2021 semester and eliminated spring break due to the coronavirus pandemic, the university announced Monday.

Penn State’s spring semester will begin the week of January 18 and run through April 30 before final exams are completed in person or remotely between May 3 and 7. Because January 18 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which will still be observed like always, Tuesday, January 19 seems like a safe bet for the first day of classes.

The university believes a delayed start will give it time to complete pre-arrival coronavirus testing and have students self-quarantine for seven days before they return.

“We are delaying the start of the spring semester to limit the time we are in session during peak flu season and to create a buffer between New Year’s Eve and the start of the semester,” Penn State President Eric Barron said. “The later start and the elimination of spring break are expected to reduce the possibilities for spreading the virus, and we again have the ability to pivot our instructional modes and operations if necessary. Faculty will have the option to choose their mode of instruction as long as it adheres to current health guidelines.”

Penn State will continue offering a handful of instruction methods identical to those used this fall, including:

Penn State said it will publish a schedule of offered courses in LionPATH on October 15. Graduate students may begin registration starting November 1, while undergraduates will follow on November 2.

Students will receive their assigned enrollment dates on October 20, which will be based on the number of credits they have earned. Enrollment appointments will be set to allow a new group of students to begin enrolling every day.

Students are encouraged to meet with their advisers and register for their spring classes before heading home in late November.

“We strongly encourage students to take advantage of this extra time before registration begins to meet with their advisers and plan for a successful spring semester,” Yvonne Gaudelius, associate vice president and senior associate dean for Undergraduate Education, said.

Penn State also said it will continue with random surveillance testing and on-demand testing in the spring. Testing will end when winter break begins and restart in January, lasting through the spring semester.

The university is also exploring new rapid testing technologies as they become available.

“All of the mitigation efforts in place during the fall will continue to be in place in the spring, such as required wearing of face masks, social distancing, a prohibition on large gatherings and both our random and on-demand testing,” said Kelly Wolgast, director of Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center (COCC). “Testing and contact tracing are critical components of our multi-layered in-person strategies as they have allowed us to identify, track and proactively mitigate the cascading consequences of a positive COVID-19 result.”

Although many details remain sparse, Provost Nick Jones encouraged students to continue cooperating with testing and precautions this fall. He also implored students to take advantage of Penn State’s on-campus flu shot clinics throughout the fall.

“I certainly understand it is uncomfortable to live with ambiguity and I am as eager as everyone else to return to some measure of normal activities. Our ability to do that in the future relies on everyone’s cooperation in protecting ourselves and those around us by continuing to follow CDC guidance on wearing face coverings, maintaining a physical distance from others, washing your hands frequently and avoiding large gatherings,” Jones said. “We also are strongly encouraging everyone to receive a seasonal flu vaccine this year and right about now is a good time.”

The university plans to release more information about the spring semester soon as more plans are finalized.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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