Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020

Dear Students,

If you are following the news, you know that the national health situation is at a critical juncture. The holiday season continues to prompt a surge in cases and experts in the scientific and medical communities project difficult weeks to come. This has prompted many states, among them Pennsylvania, to reintroduce restrictions that are reminiscent of the earliest days of COVID-19. This has also prompted us to change our spring plans. Please read on for information about returning next semester.

Revised Spring Calendar

Spring classes for undergraduate students will now begin on Monday, Feb. 1, one week later than our planned return. Classes will continue to be held in face-to-face, online and blended formats, and we will conclude all instruction by May 13.

Finals will then be held from May 15 to May 22. Residential students will soon receive information from Residence Life detailing spring move-in plans.

Clinical and experiential learning for pharmacy and nursing students may start earlier than Feb. 1. Faculty members will contact those students about start dates and any testing, vaccination or quarantine requirements that are needed for front-line work. Residential students in those programs will be permitted to move back to campus early.

Below is additional information that you should note about the change to our academic calendar.

  • Spring break: As we previously announced, classes will be held during spring break, typically occurring the first week of March. Classes will not be held on Thursday, April 1, and Friday, April 2, in acknowledgement of the holiday recess.
  • Wellness days: We know that a continuous semester of study is trying for you. That is why we are introducing two wellness days on which classes will not be held. Wellness days will be held on Tuesday, March 2 and Wednesday, April 28. We hope you use this downtime to do something restful, safe and enjoyable.
  • Commencement: Commencement ceremonies recognizing 2020 and 2021 graduates, initially planned for May 22 and 23, will be pushed to Memorial Day weekend. It won't surprise you to know that we must continue to assess capacity limits and the feasibility of these gatherings. We will announce any changes to timing or format as we know more about what the health situation may be in late spring.
  • Online graduate and accelerated students: As in the fall, the spring start dates of online graduate programs and accelerated bachelor’s degrees in business and nursing remain unchanged. If changes to your graduate program are anticipated, department faculty will be in touch.

Return Testing

In November, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced testing recommendations for students returning to college campuses. As a result, all undergraduate students must present negative results from COVID-19 tests taken within 72 hours of their return. Tests can be conducted wherever you may reside and in collaboration with your health care professionals. In addition, many pharmacies and community health agencies also offer testing. If you test positive, your date of return will be delayed until you are cleared to attend classes. Alternative course instruction arrangements will be made for you. Faculty and staff will also require negative test results.

The Commonwealth's recommendations also call for a more aggressive approach to assurance testing. Assurance testing involves testing a random selection of people from across campus to identify asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals and help avert potential outbreaks before they occur.

More information about return and assurance testing will be shared with you in the weeks ahead.

Financial Adjustments

We will once again offer a $100 credit to the general university fee for all full-time undergraduate students. This adjustment recognizes the extraordinary circumstances we continue to face during the upcoming semester. It will be reflected on spring tuition bills in the weeks to come. Since our time on campus is not compressed, merely beginning and ending later than planned, room and board will not be discounted this semester. If the health situation interrupts the amount of time that students are in residence halls, we will revisit those charges.

This continues to be a challenging time for our campus, our communities and our world, but progress is being made. Vaccines have been developed and are being offered to health care professionals and the most vulnerable members of our population. We must continue to do all we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Wearing face masks, maintaining social distance, washing our hands and mindfully monitoring our health is our best defense. It is clear that these protocols will continue to be part of our lives in the year to come.

More information will be shared with you in the coming weeks. Please continue to monitor your Wilkes email account and visit Wilkes spring 2021 COVID-19 information for the latest.

All my best to you and your families,

Dr. Greg Cant