The spring 2021 semester will be delayed by two weeks, starting on Feb. 8 rather than the original scheduled date of Jan. 25. The school had also been considering an even later start date of Feb. 15 to mitigate the effects of the flu season and to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus once students arrive on campus.
“Our medical experts have indicated that delaying is a good option to minimize the months students are on-campus with limited outside socializing opportunities and so we can be fully occupied for less time during the traditional, seasonal flu time,” Vice President for Campus Life Annette Diorio wrote in an email to The Lafayette.
The academic calendar posted on the college’s website has been adjusted to reflect a two-week delay, which needed faculty approval to be formally changed. There was a faculty meeting held on November 17 and the revised schedule passed with a majority vote, according to several faculty members who were present at the meeting.
Under the current schedule, classes will end on May 19 and the final exam period will end on May 29. Plans for commencement, which is expected to be held in person, will be announced in January, according to President Alison Byerly.
In addition to the delayed start for the semester, the faculty voted this week on the dates for this year’s spring break, which is planned for March 30 and 31. The break will only be two days long and will fall on a Tuesday and Wednesday to discourage students from traveling off-campus.
The Curriculum and Educational Policy committee (CEP) recently submitted recommendations for the revised spring break dates in an email obtained by The Lafayette. If the faculty had settled on a Feb. 15 start date, the CEP recommended that spring break fall on April 6 and 7, also a Tuesday and Wednesday.
Lafayette’s spring semester plans are in accordance with other Lehigh Valley schools. Muhlenburg and Cedar Crest will resume in-person classes on February 8, while Lehigh and DeSales will start a week earlier on February 1. Moravian is preparing for a January 25 start date for classes, which is a week later than their previous plan. All five Lehigh Valley schools have also cancelled spring break, with some offering a three-day weekend on Good Friday.
It remains unclear whether the college will stick with the current schedule for the spring semester if Covid-19 cases continue to surge nationally. Lafayette had an outbreak tied to off-campus parties in October, prompting facilities closures and a brief halt of eat-in dining and athletic activities.
The college currently plans to do extensive testing including pre-arrival tests, which will be sent to students prior to departing for campus, arrival tests and weekly population-level tests, according to Diorio.
Byerly said that students should be in touch with the career center if they are concerned about job start dates, and noted that Mike Summers, associate vice president of career services, “has expressed confidence that employers will be flexible about job start dates.”
Byerly also noted that there will be another town hall meeting for students and families before winter break to “answer questions and give more details about spring plans, including the date for a planned in-person commencement.”
11/18: This article was updated with quotes from President Alison Byerly.
11/19: This article was updated to include quotes from Vice President for Campus Life Annette Diorio.