Most students will take their classes remotely for two weeks following Thanksgiving this fall, as officials continue planning to tentatively resume in-person classes in August.
University President Thomas LeBlanc said the decision, a similar move to several universities across the country, will prevent the potential spread of coronavirus that could occur if students travel home for the holiday and return to campus, according to an email sent to the GW community Tuesday. Students will attend in-person classes on Labor Day and Fall Break will be canceled to maximize in-person instruction time and avoid travel, he said.
“In moving expeditiously on our operations and academic planning efforts, it is clear that much is dependent on our anticipated fall calendar and modes of instruction,” he said in the email. “There is also, understandably, a degree of urgency to make decisions on these fronts to allow time for our community, and specifically our faculty, to prepare for classes – especially because we plan to use the changes coming this fall as an opportunity to enhance the GW learning experience for our students.”
LeBlanc said officials are developing “alternative schedules” for programs in the School of Nursing, College of Professional Studies, School of Medicine and Health Sciences and GW Law that meet professional accreditation requirements. Officials are also creating a process for students to request to remain on campus through the end of the semester, LeBlanc said.
He said Provost Brian Blake is encouraging faculty to use the two weeks of remote learning following Thanksgiving for an “innovative online experience” and hold major exams in person before the holiday, based on student feedback about taking spring final exams online.
LeBlanc said Blake will share “additional guidance” to faculty for adjusting syllabi and preparing for online learning with “best-in-class” instructional methods and technology. LeBlanc said officials will offer a process for faculty who cannot teach on campus to request accommodation.
The move will end the semester before the originally scheduled final exam period, creating a more than four-week winter break for students between the fall and spring semesters.
Blake said in an interview last week that administrators’ internal planning suggested they would end classes before Thanksgiving or start in-person classes early.
LeBlanc said officials have “great forward momentum” in planning for students to return to campus in August, but they may need to make further changes as the fall semester approaches. Administrators organized a Back to Campus Initiative last month to spearhead planning efforts for an in-person fall semester.
“While we are cautiously optimistic about our ability to implement these adjustments to the fall calendar, please know that as always this decision is subject to change based on the evolution of the pandemic; the recommendations of our experts and D.C., regional and federal requirements and guidance; and any additional steps we believe are necessary to support the health, safety and care of the University community,” he said.