College announces preliminary adapted fall 2020 schedule

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The College of William and Mary announced June 12 that the university would reopen for in-person semesters in a revised fall 2020 semester schedule. ETHAN BROWN / THE FLAT HAT

The College of William and Mary announced Friday, June 12 that it will offer a combination of in-person, online and hybrid classes for the fall 2020 semester as part of the university’s continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a community notice sent to staff, faculty and students, College President Katherine Rowe issued several alterations to the semester’s original schedule. The semester will now begin Wednesday, August 19, a week earlier than anticipated, and students will move out before Thanksgiving. The revised schedule also removes fall break, which was originally planned for October 10-13, and introduces provisions for additional Saturday instruction to supplement reductions to the semester’s traditional schedule.

Undergraduates will also take final exams on an expedited schedule, with exams beginning November 16 and concluding November 24.

“As the planning group evaluated W&M’s options for the fall, we thought hard about the reasons to return to on-campus teaching and learning,” Rowe said in her email. “Ultimately, our mission calls us back. No single path or solution will meet the needs of all. Yet a return to campus speeds access to student learning and community, under pandemic, in numerous ways. Students are asking to return and we have heard them. 

The College also hopes to host an additional in-person semester during summer 2021 to ensure maximum flexibility for students, and is in the developmental stages of creating academic calendars for both the spring 2021 and summer 2021 semesters.

“As the planning group evaluated W&M’s options for the fall, we thought hard about the reasons to return to on-campus teaching and learning. Ultimately, our mission calls us back. No single path or solution will meet the needs of all. Yet a return to campus speeds access to student learning and community, under pandemic, in numerous ways. Students are asking to return and we have heard them.”

The College is now in its fourth month of modified operational procedures related to COVID-19, having suspended in-person classes March 11 following rising case totals in Virginia and the United States. University closures mandated the adoption of several new campus protocols, primarily the implementation of a modified pass/fail grading policy and the shuttering of on campus residence halls. In the two months before students are expected to return to campus, Rowe noted that university officials are trying their best to accommodate student needs.

Rowe’s announcement follows similar statements from other Virginia universities, including the University of Virginia, which adopted an earlier start date as well as an earlier finish to the semester before Thanksgiving in its interim operational plan. American colleges and universities have pursued varied responses to COVID-19 in crafting semester schedules, with some larger institutions forecasting a predominantly online learning environment while others have demonstrated intentions to return to in-person classes.

In the challenging weeks and months ahead, Rowe highlighted the College’s core commitments to flexibility, wellness and innovation as students and staff adjust to new conditions on campus.

“Much work remains. We trust and empower our dedicated faculty and staff to realize this plan in ways consistent with their disciplines and schools, and with the best interests of our community in mind,” Rowe said. “And we trust in our students. Collaborations between staff, faculty, students and our surrounding community are the superpowers that have made W&M successful in the spring. These partnerships will continue to be essential going forward.”

This is a breaking story that may be updated. Last updated Friday, June 12 at 11 a.m.