COVID-19: CSU will shift spring break later, end spring semester with remote classes


A student talks on the phone as he walks across campus at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. The university welcomed students back to campus for in-person classes this fall.

Colorado State University is planning a spring schedule much like its fall semester, with a combination of in-person, hybrid and remote learning for the first 12 weeks, a delayed spring break, and a shift to remote-only instruction for the final three weeks.

Mary Pedersen, CSU’s provost and executive vice president, shared the plans with the campus community on Friday.

Classes will begin as originally scheduled Jan. 19. Spring break is being pushed back four weeks to April 12-16, and instruction will shift to remote-only from April 19 through the end of final exams May 14. The timing of final exams, May 10-14, remains unchanged.

The change is designed to reduce the potential for transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, she said.

“This adjustment will help eliminate additional risks of exposure for the community that could result from extensive travel during spring break,” Pedersen wrote.

CSU has been pleased with the way the fall semester has gone so far, and campus administrators believe the safety protocols that have been put in place are working to prevent the spread of the virus.

As of Monday evening, CSU, which has 27,835 students taking classes through its main campus in Fort Collins, has reported 559 cases of COVID-19 among students, faculty and staff since Aug. 17, when students began moving into residence halls for the start of the fall semester. That includes all students, faculty and staff, whether they’ve been on campus this semester or not, a school spokesperson said recently.

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“We’re really not seeing transmission typically in the classroom; it’s more in the congregate housing settings, students getting together in small groups outside of the classroom, etc.,” Lori Lynn, the associate director of the CSU Health Network, said Monday. “I think we’ve done well because of our testing strategy, for one, and then we’ve put a lot of protocols in place for the classroom environment — the distancing, wearing a mask, hand sanitizers, disinfecting as you enter and exit. And really, we’ve seen a very high level of compliance in that environment.”

Plans call for the university to offer in-person instruction at a similar percentage as it is offering this fall, which is 64%. That figure was determined by the availability of classroom space on campus, allowing for social distancing and other safety protocols, said Kelly Long, the university’s vice provost for undergraduate studies. More classes would have in-person instruction, she said, if more space were available.

“From an academic perspective, it certainly always presents challenges when we have this degree of change,” said Ben Withers, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “But I’ve been very impressed with the way that the faculty and the staff and the students have operated under these conditions.”

CSU had hoped to coordinate its spring break with local school districts, but Poudre School District was not yet prepared to make a decision on its spring schedule, Pedersen said in her email. Spring break for students in Poudre and Thompson school districts, the two closest school districts to CSU’s main campus in Fort Collins, is scheduled for March 15-19. Spring break in the Weld RE-4 School District, which is Windsor and Severance, is scheduled for March 21-25.

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CSU’s campus will remain open following its delayed spring break, Pedersen wrote, similar to the plans for this fall following the Thanksgiving break, when all classes will switch to remote instruction through the end of the semester with final exams Dec. 14-18.

The formal May graduation ceremonies are not expected to take place in 2021, Long said, but the university is working on plans to celebrate its spring graduates in some fashion.

Lynn said the university is in regular communication with the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment and will modify its plans as needed.

“We know that cases are rising,” she said. “We’re going into the winter break, and we’re hoping that we can resume the spring semester in much the same way that we did the fall semester, most likely with initial testing protocols as people return to campus and then the ongoing test cycle.

“But we also know the state or county could change their guidance at any point and that we need to be able to adapt.”

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