COVID-19 RESPONSE UPDATE - Looking Ahead to the Spring Semester

October 1, 2020

A Message from:
Amy Gutmann, President
Wendell Pritchett, Provost
Craig Carnaroli, Executive Vice President

We are enormously grateful to our students, faculty and staff for the outstanding start to the fall semester. Our Penn community has risen to the challenge of these unusual circumstances, finding new ways of learning, working, and talking together in an online environment as we navigate through this worldwide pandemic.

Looking ahead to the spring semester, the University continues to closely monitor developments related to the pandemic. We are regularly consulting with city, state, and federal agencies as well as our world-class health system in assessing options through multiple committees and working groups.  Although we will be back in touch with you by mid-November with more comprehensive details about our plans for the spring, we write today to share with you several important changes to our calendar to facilitate planning for students and families.  

The spring semester will start one week later, on January 20. If we are able to welcome students to campus, move-in would be on or about January 10.  To provide a maximum amount of time for scheduling, we are also moving Advance Registration for the spring semester to November 30-December 7. This change will enable our students and faculty to have as much information as possible, before the last day of classes, when making decisions about spring term courses. Exams will end on December 22 as previously scheduled. Despite the later start to the spring semester, we will be able to preserve a shortened spring break on March 10-11, held on a Wednesday and Thursday to discourage travel during the pandemic. Professional programs may deviate from this schedule.

The limited number of students on campus this fall has allowed us to set up testing and tracing systems that have operated effectively. The responsible behavior of the vast majority of our students living both on and off campus has led to a low positivity rate consistently below 2% (the World Health Organization recommends positivity rates remain below 5%). You can see the most current data at our Coronavirus Dashboard. To be able to bring all students back to campus in the spring, we would need the capacity to do regular testing on a very wide scale. Penn Medicine is working hard to help us build that capacity. But massive testing alone will not be enough to allow a successful return to campus. Students must adhere to the Student Campus Compact, which requires a disciplined respect for physical distancing, facial coverings, and limited group gatherings. We urge all students and families to be familiar with its requirements.

To help us learn more, in real time, about how we can continue to enhance and optimize our student experiences during this challenging time, we also plan to launch a Student Survey in mid-October. This survey will include every undergraduate, graduate, and professional student. Students, please look for an email this month with your personal and confidential survey link.

As we continue to work on plans for the spring, please know how much we appreciate your extraordinary commitment to our educational mission. We will keep you updated as events move forward and we are able to make final decisions regarding the spring semester.

Last Updated 10/01/2020 - 13:33