(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.) — Indiana’s colleges and universities are taking different approaches as they resume in-person classes next month, but they’re all sending students home for the year at Thanksgiving.
It’s not that universities expect a second wave of coronavirus infections over the winter — for one thing, the first wave still isn’t over, and there’s no indication the virus is seasonal. Rather, it’s an effort to prevent pandemic hotspots from cross-pollinating onto campus. Having thousands of students disperse across the U.S. and around the world and then come back to campus raises the odds that some of them will bring the virus back with them.
Most schools are canceling Labor Day and fall breaks so students only leave campus en masse once,
and stay home when they do. To do that, some schools are starting early so the semester is finished by Thanksgiving. Others will move courses online in December. Indiana University has carved out a two-month flex period for its campuses to chart their own path — some may use that period to finish the fall semester, others may start the spring semester early, and some may create a stand-alone intensive-study term.
Purdue Provost Jay Akridge says dorms will remain open after Thanksgiving for students who aren’t going home, but classes after the break will all be online. Purdue is having students sign a pledge to keep themselves and others safe, by washing hands, following social distancing, and obeying the school’s mask requirement.
Akridge says Purdue won’t decide till sometime this fall what to do after the new year. He notes the course of the pandemic remains unpredictable.