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Universities Adjust Spring Semester Plans Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases

Amanda Andrews
Student health center at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

Gov. Jared Polis shared an updated COVID-19 dial system this week to track risk levels as cases rise across the state, and universities are taking it into account.

Colorado State University announced Tuesday that the spring semester will be a mix of in-person and remote learning. Students will return to classes on schedule Jan. 19, but spring break will be pushed back one month to April 12. Following the break, classes will be entirely online through the end of the semester on May 14.

The University of Colorado Boulder announced similar plans to start a mix of in-person and remote classes Jan. 14. However, officials also removed spring break entirely from the academic year to discourage students from traveling and increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Instead, Boulder students will start the semester three days later and receive two days off: Feb. 17 and March 25.

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano said in a community town hall that the plan prioritizes safe and productive campus life for students, faculty and staff.

“Opting out of spring break was a difficult decision, however it was made with the health and safety of our community in mind,” DiStefano said. “We are still offering a world class education in one of the best college towns in America, with housing and dining options and access to COVID-19 testing.”

Spring semester plans at CSU and CU mirror the fall semester. Students are currently scheduled to move to online learning after Thanksgiving break at both institutions.

The University of Northern Colorado is the exception among the three major universities. As of Nov. 5, the plan is for students to continue hybrid learning even after Thanksgiving.

Blaine Nickeson, head of the UNC coronavirus task force, said as cases continue to rise, they’re closely monitoring where Weld County falls on the state's COVID dial system.

“UNC is nimble. We are prepared to adjust our response and our plans,” Nickeson said. “We’ve told our faculty to be prepared for that throughout this whole fall semester. So that folks are ready, and if we have to change our course modality or schedule we'll be able to do it.”

UNC will start the spring semester on schedule Jan. 11.

Nickeson said they currently plan to keep spring break on its regular schedule, but the task force is monitoring responses from neighboring universities like CSU.

Corrected: November 6, 2020 at 8:53 AM MST
A previous version of this story gave a start date of January 19th for UNC. It has been corrected to the 11th.