North Carolina State University and UNC Chapel Hill announced Thursday they'll open early and condense their fall schedules to send students home before Thanksgiving. Officials at both schools say they hope to get in a semester of in-person classes before a possible resurgence of COVID-19.
"The driving factor behind this schedule is the health, safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff," NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson wrote. "Many public health experts believe our nation and our state could face a second wave of COVID-19 sometime in late fall or early winter."
Both schools plan to open Aug. 10, skip fall break, finish exams before Thanksgiving and – hopefully – return for spring semester early in 2021. Officials say the goal is keeping students on campus instead of letting them go back and forth to hometowns where they might catch – or spread – the virus.
"As these are unprecedented times, our roadmap will also have off-ramps, and we will modify this plan if conditions change and the situation warrants," wrote UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
He said students will start moving into Chapel Hill dorms Aug. 3.
"We will do that over the course of seven days so we’re sort of spreading that out as well, so that we can spread out the density of people, including the parents who would be helping move students into the residential halls," Guskiewicz said in a news briefing.
His memo says fall semester will include several safety precautions, including smaller classes, more time between classes, one-way entrances to buildings, remote options, face coverings and increased cleaning. Faculty will return on staggered work schedules to encourage office distancing.
At the UNC online briefing, Kyle Ingram with The Daily Tar Heel asked whether large student gatherings would be limited, "such as tailgates or fraternity parties that could turn into hotbeds for transmission of the virus."
"Most likely there will be some restrictions set on that," Guskiewicz said. He said the university will follow state guidance on large gatherings.
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