GREENSBORO — UNCG and N.C. A&T have canceled their fall breaks this year and will end fall semester classes before Thanksgiving in an attempt to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The city's two state universities announced Monday that the fall semester will be held in person and on campus starting in mid-August as scheduled. Because students and faculty won't return to campus after Thanksgiving, final exams will be held remotely.
December commencements will take place on their previously scheduled dates, and both universities are planning to start their spring semesters on time in January.
Both UNCG and A&T said they eliminated their traditional October and November breaks to keep students and faculty on campus and in town as much as possible during the semester.
"This plan reduces the need for people to leave campus, disperse widely and then return in the middle of the semester," UNCG Chancellor Frank Gilliam wrote to students and employees Monday. "Limiting movement is key for managing virus spread."
Some health experts have suggested that the nation might see another surge of COVID-19 cases later this year when temperatures turn cooler and the flu season gets underway.
A&T Provost Beryl McEwen wrote in a memo to faculty and staff Monday that ending the semester earlier than usual "will also enable the university to avoid bringing students back from locations around the country for a handful of remaining instruction days and bringing with them infection that any students may have been subject to during the four-day Thanksgiving break."
A UNCG Faculty Senate committee reviewed several potential calendar revisions presented by university leaders. The full senate unanimously supported the plan announced Monday.
"We felt this revised calendar gave us both traditional start and end dates of the formal semester ... while prioritizing health and wellness and also minimizing the need for our constituents to come and go from campus," library and information science professor and Faculty Senate Chairman Anthony Chow wrote in an email.
Monday's announcements signal that UNCG and A&T are hoping to return to relatively normal operations after a turbulent spring. Like most schools nationwide, both universities closed their campuses suddenly in March to all but a handful of students, told nearly all employees to work from home and moved classes online. They also postponed their in-person May commencements.
In April, the UNC System said that North Carolina's 16 state universities would plan to resume in-person instruction in August. Many other private colleges locally and across North Carolina have expressed similar intentions.
But UNC System leaders left many details — about schedules, class formats and social distancing — up to the chancellors at each university. Both UNCG and A&T on Monday said they might announce further changes over the summer.
Two other UNC System schools already have announced major changes to their schedules.
UNC-Charlotte announced earlier this month that it would start the fall semester in early September, about two weeks later than scheduled.
East Carolina University said it would split its fall and spring semesters into two blocks during which students would take two or three classes instead of the typical five. ECU leaders are hoping this block system will make it easier on students if universities have to move quickly to online instruction partway through the school year like they did in the spring.
In the meantime, here's a closer look at the UNCG and A&T calendar changes:
• Both institutions will be closed for the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 7.*
• Fall break scheduled at both schools for Oct. 12-13 has been canceled.
• Fall semester classes at both schools will end Nov. 24, two days before Thanksgiving.
• Both schools have canceled Reading Day, the day between the final day of classes and the start of exams. UNCG's Reading Day had been scheduled for Dec. 3; A&T's was to be the next day.
• Final exams will be done online or through a take-home exam. UNCG said in-person exams will be held only for classes that "absolutely require certain clinical assessments or lab-based work."
• UNCG's exams will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5. A&T's exams will be given Dec. 7-11.
• Both universities plan to hold winter commencements on their previously scheduled dates: Dec. 11 at UNCG and Dec. 12 at A&T. UNCG will hold its doctoral hooding ceremony Dec. 10.
• Under their original schedules, both institutions would have 71 days of class during their fall semesters. The revised calendars include 70 class days at UNCG and 69 at N.C. A&T.*
* Editor's note, May 19: N.C. A&T announced May 19 that it would not hold classes on Labor Day. That change reduced the number of class days at A&T to 69. The last bullet point in this story has been changed to reflect the revised number of class days.