The University of Virginia announced Thursday that it will begin its spring academic semester for undergraduate students on Feb. 1, 2021 and conclude instruction on May 6.
The instructional approach will largely mirror the current semester. Students who wish to study on Grounds will be welcome and UVA will offer as many in-person experiences as it safely can. Every course will have an online component, with the exception of a small number of labs or practicums. Every person who comes to Grounds will be required to follow policies on wearing masks, avoiding large social gatherings, practicing physical distancing, completing the Hoos Health Check phone app each day and adhering to testing requirements.
“The plans we are announcing today reflect the need to remain cautious in the face of a historic pandemic,” UVA Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis said in a message to the University community. “They also reflect our confidence in the capacity of this University and its people to continue to limit the spread and keep each other safe. As we finish this semester strong and look to the future, we are ready to put those lessons to work to advance the mission of this University as safely and effectively as we can.”
UVA also provided details about other upcoming scheduling and operational items, including:
- Conclusion of semester virus-testing: UVA’s current fall academic semester ends Nov. 24, and exams will be conducted online in December. As part of its COVID-19 asymptomatic testing schedule, every student living in University housing will have been tested before the Thanksgiving holiday. UVA this week also increased its random, asymptomatic testing of students living off-Grounds, and is now using saliva screening, in addition to testing kits from Let’s Get Checked, to test off-Grounds students.
- January Term: UVA’s January Term runs from Jan. 4, 2021, to Jan. 15. It offers students an opportunity to take for-credit and enrichment courses during the winter break. This academic year, undergraduate students are eligible to take one J-Term course and one course during UVA’s first summer session at no additional tuition charge as part of the University’s efforts to provide additional scheduling and course-load flexibility for students. All J-Term courses will be conducted online.
- Final Exercises: UVA said it will make an announcement regarding plans for both the 2020 and the 2021 Final Exercises ceremonies by March 15. Finals Weekend for 2021 graduates is currently scheduled for May 21-23, and Finals Weekend for 2020 graduates, whose in-person celebrations were postponed this year due to the coronavirus, is scheduled for May 28-30.
UVA has closely monitored a variety of metrics to guide its decision-making during the pandemic. It has ramped up testing capacity, and has stressed the need to follow health guidance on mask-wearing, hand-washing, physical distancing and gatherings. In September, University leaders tightened some restrictions after public health advisers grew concerned about the increasing trend of positive cases.
More recently, the number of positive cases among students living in University housing has declined steadily. Some of the restrictions were relaxed, and University leaders are hopeful that the spring semester will look and feel much as the current semester.
In an effort to limit travel to and from Charlottesville, the traditional weeklong spring break will be replaced by multiple, shorter breaks for students to rest in the midst of the semester. Students will be encouraged to stay in the area in order to limit the spread of the virus. Dates of the breaks will be announced soon.
University leaders continue to emphasize the importance of basic preventive practices, and also said UVA will stand ready to adjust its plans as conditions dictate.
“Thanks to you, we have seen case counts fall in our community and our region recently – but other regions of the country are experiencing surges,” the UVA community message said. “We are monitoring the progression of the virus closely and will make changes if necessary.”