The Catholic University of America is changing the schedule for its upcoming fall 2020 semester. As part of the University’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, classes on campus will now begin on Monday, Aug. 24 — a week earlier than originally planned — barring any restrictions by the District of Columbia.
In addition, in-person classes will conclude when students leave for the University’s traditional Thanksgiving break, which this year begins on Wednesday, Nov. 25. The last two weeks of the semester (classes and exams) will be taught remotely following the Thanksgiving holiday. Final exams will be administered as take-home versions or online.
All study abroad programs are also cancelled for the semester. At the present time, global travel restrictions are still in place, most of the countries are not processing visas, and the pandemic is getting worse in many parts of the world. A second wave in areas that have otherwise seen improvement could further jeopardize students’ health, academics, and freedom of travel, said Provost Aaron Dominguez in a message to the University community.
Across the country, a number of colleges and universities have adopted or are considering similar changes, which are intended to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus among students, faculty, and professional staff during the early weeks of flu season. Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show cases normally increase substantially beginning in December. By completing the semester early, students who leave campus in late November will no longer need to travel back to campus in order to complete their classes and take exams.
“As the COVID-19 crisis has continued and more information about the virus becomes known, new best practices are emerging about how to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in various environments,” Dominguez said. “To many within higher education, it is increasingly clear that limiting student travel to and from the nation’s campuses during an already high-risk period for the flu is a reasonable precaution. At Catholic, our academic administration, faculty, and student life teams will be working intensively between now and when classes start on Aug. 24 to ensure that this semester goes as smoothly as possible for our students and their families.”
The decision to adjust the academic calendar was made in consultation with faculty and staff and takes into account current recommendations from the CDC and other public health officials, Dominguez added. “From the outset of this pandemic, the University has been committed to taking action based upon the advice of medical experts, and will continue to adhere to that guidance as the best means to ensure the health and safety of the entire campus community.”
Details on the exact implementation of this schedule change will be worked out during the coming weeks, including plans to allow for continued research after the Thanksgiving holiday. In the meantime, staff in Student Affairs and Athletics have created a FAQ for students’ return to campus.
“The University, as always, will endeavor to be as responsive as possible to the concerns of every student, faculty and staff member,” said Dominguez, noting the many working groups formed to help manage the COVID-19 crisis convene daily and are active on many fronts preparing for a safe and healthy start to the new academic year.