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UChicago Extends Winter Break For Most Students Due To COVID Surge; Will Go Virtual For Two Weeks

The university's winter quarter will now start Jan. 10 for most students and staff, while officials plan a return to in-person classes Jan. 24.

The campus of The University of Chicago in Hyde Park on Thursday, September 3, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — The University of Chicago will delay the start of its winter quarter by one week for most students, and the first two weeks of class will be held online amid a surge of coronavirus cases in Chicago and across the state.

Most university departments will begin virtual classes Jan. 10 and are expected to return in-person Jan. 24, Provost Ka Yee Lee and Executive Vice President Katie Callow-Wright wrote Thursday.

“Although we are taking these temporary measures as a precaution, the University greatly values in-person instruction, and we are committed to returning to it as soon as conditions allow,” Lee and Callow-Wright said.

The winter quarter will end March 19, spring break begins the week of March 21 and spring quarter for most departments will start March 28.

Several departments will follow different schedules for the upcoming months, officials said.

Medical students may have special requirements — particularly for their clinical rotations — that could differ from the calendar changes. The Booth School of Business’s Executive Master’s of Business Administration program will hold virtual classes Jan. 7, 8, 21 and 22.

The Law School will begin remote classes Monday, and spring classes will begin March 21 to follow accreditation guidelines.

Changes to the winter calendar were made “based on assessments from medical experts that infection rates from the Omicron variant will continue to rise substantially in the next few weeks,” Lee and Callow-Wright said.

Illinois is facing its “highest surge of cases” at any point in the coronavirus pandemic. Public officials have urged residents to get fully vaccinated, get a booster shot, wear masks and get tested.

Infections are expected to peak in early to mid-January, putting “increased stress” on the university’s medical system, contract tracing program, staffing and other university functions, Lee and Callow-Wright said.

The changes “should allow us to get past the peak of Omicron infections, help reduce case counts in the on-campus populations (especially in residence halls), conserve medical resources in our community, and reduce disruptions to instruction,” they said.

University students and employees who are eligible for a vaccine booster shot must get one for the upcoming quarter, officials announced last week.

Students must submit proof of their booster shot or receive an exemption before classes are set to return in-person Jan. 24, while employees must prove they received their third dose before Jan. 31. Those currently ineligible for a booster must receive one within 30 days of becoming eligible.

The university will expand its coronavirus testing program starting this week. To schedule a test, visit the testing program’s website

Officials urged undergraduates living in residence halls not to return to campus until Jan. 20 at the earliest. Students who must return to campus before then should contact the Housing and Residence Life department.

In-person gatherings “should be limited to essential, non-social convenings of smaller groups over short durations through at least Jan. 24 and potentially beyond,” Lee and Callow-Wright said. The University’s travel policy is not changing, though officials “strongly advise” against unnecessary travel.

Conferences, performances and exhibits will be allowed with reduced capacity and strict mask requirements.

“There will still be high numbers” of coronavirus cases on-campus when in-person classes resume in late January, “and ongoing interventions and adaptions may be required,” Lee and Callow-Wright said. 

Officials will announce updated plans in early January, they said.

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