In a Last-Minute Scramble, Some Colleges Scrap Plans to Reopen for the Spring Semester

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  • Increasingly, colleges had been planning to reopen for in-person learning, despite the ongoing public health crisis.
  • A recent spike in new Covid cases is causing some to backtrack.

With just days to spare, some colleges are scrapping plans to reopen for the spring semester as Covid cases rise. Others are simply stalling.

Stanford University had planned to bring more students back for the spring semester with a delayed in-person start date. Yet, the university recently announced it will not be able to have the freshmen and sophomore classes return to campus after all.

The news came one day after reporting that more than 40 students had tested positive for coronavirus in the past week, according to The Stanford Daily. 

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"The worsening Covid-19 circumstances have now eroded our expectations about the experience we could deliver to undergraduates," President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell said in a letter to the community.

Goucher College in Maryland recently announced it will remain online for the spring, while other colleges and universities, including Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nazareth College in New York and Syracuse, said they are delaying the start of the term.

With less than two weeks before its semester is set to start, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said undergraduate classes will begin on Jan. 19 as planned; however, in-person classes won't kick off until Feb. 8. (The university also experienced a rocky attempt at reopening this past fall.)

Across the country and across the board, colleges are struggling with how to bring students to campus safely as the public health crisis worsens but dissatisfaction with remote learning grows.

"It's a major, major problem on both sides," said Hafeez Lakhani, president of New York-based Lakhani Coaching.

The U.S. continues to report record numbers of Covid-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data, even as the vaccine rollout begins to pick up some steam.

The country is now recording an average of 3,239 virus deaths each day. 

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