With a final decision on the fall semester just weeks away, officials say changes to the fall academic calendar are likely to mitigate ongoing health risks.
Provost Brian Blake said administrators are discussing starting the fall semester early or concluding in-person classes by Thanksgiving, a move some institutions across the country have already announced in anticipation of a potential second wave of the coronavirus late in the semester. Blake said last week that if students return to campus, faculty will provide additional flexibility to infected students or those who are more vulnerable to the virus.
“Although we don’t have a final answer on the fall schedule yet, the ongoing discussions with students, faculty and staff suggest we will have a contiguous fall term that may be shorter while attempting to encourage students to remain local as much as possible to reduce the possibility of contracting the virus away from campus,” Blake said in an email.
He said officials hope to announce specific plans “very shortly.” Administrators have previously said they will make a final decision by June 15 with a possible one-week extension.
“As provost, I absolutely want to see our students back on campus allowing for the special ‘only at GW’ environment to the fullest possible extent possible, within a safe and healthy context,” Blake said.
Officials unveiled three fall scenarios earlier this month – on-campus instruction and residential housing, a hybrid of on-campus and online coursework or a continuation of the instructional continuity period. For students to return to campus, GW’s health experts have said they will need to test students periodically for the presence of the virus and coronavirus antibodies.