The time has come for colleges and universities across the US to decide whether to reopen campuses for in-person instruction for the fall semester.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc, a handful of schools have announced plans to bring students back, but shorten semesters by canceling fall break and ending in-person class time after Thanksgiving.
Other schools, including those in the California State University system, have plans to cancel nearly all in-person classes through the semester.
Here are some reasons colleges have decided to cancel classes or shorten the fall semester:
More time to plan
Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, will start its fall semester in-person on October 5, according to a statement Monday from Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado.
Ithaca is “intentionally delivering necessary time for all of us to plan, prepare, and thoughtfully align toward a common goal as this public health crisis continues to evolve,” Collado said.
“Our thinking around our October opening has also been informed by recommendations from select national and state organizations and groups,” Collado said, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York.
Reopening plans by state governments also affect schools’ decisions to hold in-person classes.
Reducing mass travel
Universities in nearly a dozen states have said they expect to hold classes on campus in the fall. Schools in at least four states plan to end in-person classes after Thanksgiving.
“This was done to minimize the mass exit and return of students these breaks created,” Purdue University in Indiana said in a statement Monday.
Universities are trying to avoid exposing students and faculty to the highly contagious virus through holiday season travel.
“Our best current modeling predicts a spike in cases of Covid-19 at the beginning of December, which also will likely coincide with traditional flu season,” said University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen in a message to faculty, staff and students.
Along with South Carolina and Purdue, Creighton University in Nebraska, Rice University in Texas and Notre Dame will also be ending face-to-face classes after Thanksgiving.
Fear of a second wave
A second round of Covid-19 cases is “inevitable” in the fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last month.
Schools are trying limit the severity of that second wave by halting classes after Thanksgiving.
“With concerns about a second wave of the virus during the traditional beginning of the flu season in late November or December, we are planning to complete most in-person, on-campus learning for the fall 2020 semester by Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving,” said Creighton University President Daniel S. Hendrickson.
Caslen, South Carolina’s president, said his university isn’t just making the decision for students and faculty, but for the surrounding communities as well.
“These changes are part of the new normal that all of us must embrace as we return to campus for work and study, and they are necessary for us to successfully resume in-person instruction,” Caslen said. “Most importantly, they reflect our top priority: your health, safety and wellbeing.”
CNN’s Elizabeth Stuart, Annie Grayer, Kelly Christ, Yon Pomrenze and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.