Sun shines through the Pratt Ginkgo in fall Dan Addison

The University of Virginia has pushed back the start of the spring semester until Feb. 1 and will offer all students a COVID-19 test before they leave for the extended winter break.

The semester had been scheduled to start Jan. 20 but is being delayed to reduce the time students are together during flu season, Provost M. Elizabeth “Liz” Magill (Law ’95) and COO Jennifer “J.J.” Wagner Davis said in making the announcement.

The semester will end May 6. To reduce travel to and from Charlottesville, spring break has been eliminated in favor of multiple, shorter breaks. The dates for those breaks have yet to be announced.

Instruction during the spring semester will look much like the fall, with the University planning to offer as many in-person classes as possible. Except for a small number of labs and practicums, all classes will have an online component. Those coming to Grounds will be required to comply with masking, social distancing and testing requirements, as well as limits on the size of gatherings.

“The plans we are announcing today reflect the need to remain cautious in the face of a historic pandemic. 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,” Magill and Davis said.

The fall semester ends Nov. 24, with exams conducted online in December. Students living on Grounds will take pre-departure COVID tests as part of the regular schedule in which they are tested at least every nine days. Students living off-Grounds will be provided with the same test kits they used before they arrived for fall. They may also be offered saliva tests as capacity allows.

Student case counts have fallen recently to a daily average of six for the week ending Oct. 22, versus 23 per day three weeks earlier, according to the online UVA COVID Tracker. With cases surging in other areas, however, Magill and Davis emphasized that UVA’s plans could change.

Magill and Davis also announced that the 12-day January term between semesters will take place entirely online. A January term course is included in undergraduate tuition this year.

In addition, they said the University will make an announcement by March 15 on plans for Final Exercises for the classes of 2020 and 2021. Finals weekend for the class of 2021 is now scheduled for May 21 to 23. Exercises for the class of 2020, which were postponed because of the coronavirus, are scheduled for May 28 to 30.

Ed Miller is associate editor of Virginia Magazine.