NC State, UNC announce fall semester starting earlier, ending by Thanksgiving; Duke delays decision to June

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Friday, May 22, 2020
NC State, UNC announce fall semester starting earlier, ending by Thanksgiving; Duke delays decision to June
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Officials are concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 in the late fall or early winter.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill announced Thursday that both schools would begin and end the fall 2020 semester early due to concerns about COVID-19. Duke has yet to finalize fall plans.

In a letter to students, faculty and staff, NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said the academic calendar would begin on August 10, nine days earlier than originally planned. The school will not take a fall break and classes will end before Thanksgiving.

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Woodson said students would not return to campus after Thanksgiving break for the rest of the calendar year. Woodson cited public health concerns about a second wave of COVID-19 in the late fall or early winter.

"This guidance led us to start and finish the semester early in an effort to try and stay ahead of a potential second wave," Woodson wrote.

Woodson also said by eliminating fall break and ending the semester before Thanksgiving break, when many students and staff members may travel to visit family and friends, the university is lowering the risk of any members of the NC State community could bring the disease back to campus.

"I think the data for anybody under 50 has been pretty convincing and I think we have to get back to normal. I didn't pay to go to NC State to go online," said Luke Stancil, an NC State senior slated to graduate in the winter.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz relayed similar plans, adding that the school would observe Labor Day and University Day holidays, but end classes on November 24.

Guskiewicz also added that class sizes will be reduced and the time between classes will be extended. Entrances and exits will be designated for one-way traffic into and out of buildings and classrooms. In addition, more classes will be conducted remotely.

In addition, staff and faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill will return to campus in phases with staggered work schedules.

"I don't think returning to campus is the safest thing for students, our staff and faculty and our families back home-so many people would be put at risk with our returning to campus," said Chris Suggs, the senior class president of UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Winter commencement plans will be announced at a later date.

Meanwhile, Duke University remains undecided on the details.

Duke President Vincent E. Price said Thursday that the university will be open in the fall, with the specific details of attendance and schedule "to be determined soon."

"There's a lot we still don't know," Price said. "Like every family, community and business, we are trying to make the best decisions with only partial information that changes by the day. A month ago, we established several planning teams to prepare for the next academic year. These teams have worked closely with our faculty, our physicians and public health experts to develop a range of options that start with protecting the health and safety of the Duke community and focus intensely on ensuring the continued excellence of our education, research, public service and patient-care missions."

Price said Duke expects to make decisions about the structure of the coming academic year by the end of June.

"We are committed to getting this right, and responsible decision making must be based on a clearer understanding of public health and safety issues than is now available," Price said. "Our decisions also have to be informed by our experience from these early campus restarts. Making choices now in the absence of this vital information would jeopardize safety of our students, faculty, staff and the wider community, even if it seems to provide the certainty so many of us desire."