New spring 2021 schedule mirrors fall, starts later

The newly released spring 2021 calendar for VU is highly modified from years past as questions of COVID-19’s longevity are on the rise. The second semester of the academic year poses a striking resemblance to the current fall 2020 schedule.

“We looked at the CDC guidelines. We looked at what other universities are doing. We’ve thought about what is appropriate here at Valpo and what would work for our students and our community. And we matched all that information together to think about the spring 2021 academic calendar that’s now online,” said Allison Urbanczyk, interim university registrar.

An extended winter break, a later start to the second semester and a shortened spring break are among the more notable changes to the academic calendar. The fall semester is set to end on Nov. 24 and instruction for the spring semester begins on Jan. 25, 2021, creating a two-month break between semesters. 

As for spring recess, it is largely centered around Easter and goes from April 1-6. This highly differs from previous years where no classes were held on Good Friday and during a two week period for spring break.

“Some of our goals were to condense the semester to avoid any unnecessary travel away from and back to campus. We also wanted to avoid as much of the flu season on campus as possible. So we delayed the start of the spring term so that it would be easiest for us to have a nice healthy campus that’s not battling the flu at the same time as worrying about Covid-19,” Urbanczyk said. “We were able to meet those goals by just condensing a little bit, starting a little bit later and moving our spring break so that everything lined up better for students and faculty.” 

The development of the spring 2021 schedule took into account the overall experience and environment for learning of both students and faculty. Identical methods of current instruction are planned to be extended into the second semester; hybrid, online asynchronous, online synchronous and in-person.

“We’ve made more options available in fall 2020, where we have more hybrid-specific information available whether the classes will be all in-person at the same time or a mixture thereof. So we’ve made more choices available for faculty and students and we’re going to carry that forward in the spring so that those options are still available,” Urbanczyk said.

Registration for spring 2021 is set to open in mid-Oct. Registration will be about one week earlier than usual, allowing for students to speak with their advisors before the semester ends and find classes with the instructional methods that will foster the most comforting environment for their learning.

The unique calendar for the second semester offers benefits towards staying healthy, alongside advantages for students that reside out of state.

“With the extended winter break, I like it because I don’t live near here, so it’s hard to go back and forth a lot, so I like having the longer break where there is more time to see family and friends from [home],” said Kathryn Harrold, a freshman actuarial science major.

Students are presently experiencing fall 2020 as a four-month condensed semester with zero breaks in its duration. Previous years have had five months of instruction with a fall break and Thanksgiving break. 

“[Winter break] will be a mental reset before we get back into things,” Harrold said. “As long as everyone keeps following the guidelines that have been set by the CDC as well as the individual [state] counties and here at Valpo, they will stay healthier.”

Isabella Pressler, freshman environmental science major, commented in regards to the academic calendar.

“I know we are taking a big push here from early of August to all the way to the Tuesday before Thanksgiving with no fall break, I would say that I’m excited for this big amount of time off, and especially for the spring it will make me be able to be more rested and more capable to finish out the year strong,” Pressler said.

Valpo’s advanced planning for the spring 2021 term has gained momentum among the community. However, only time will tell if Valpo’s efforts are effective at attaining a healthy campus and deploying compelling learning opportunities for students and faculty alike.

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