OU President Joseph Harroz announced that the Norman campus will move to fully virtual instruction after Thanksgiving break, remove next semester’s spring break and extend winter break by one week.
In an email, Harroz said the modifications to the academic calendar were made with the guidance of the university’s chief COVID officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler, to avoid a COVID-19 surge due to Thanksgiving and spring break travel. Oklahoma State University has also canceled its spring break, and other institutions nationwide have done the same.
“We understand the change in the spring schedule may be disappointing and disruptive for many, and this decision is not made lightly,” Harroz wrote in the email. “In the face of the pandemic, we are forced to take all steps that maximize our ability to continue to provide in-person education and that minimize the health risks to our community. Based upon the best expertise available, this step is necessary to do so.”
With the extension of winter break by one week, Harroz wrote that the university is still planning to end the spring 2021 semester as planned on May 14. The extra week will also allow the university more time to prepare for another semester dealing with COVID-19.
“Adding an extra week before the spring 2021 semester allows more time for operational readiness,” Harroz wrote. “Our spring semester courses will be structured in much the same way as we have the current semester.”
After Thanksgiving break — which ends Nov. 29 — all courses will move online for the remainder of the fall 2020 semester. The final day of the fall semester is currently scheduled to be Dec. 18.
“This covers the week of regular instruction following the holiday, the finals preparation week that follows, and the week of final exams,” Harroz wrote. “Norman campus programs that are delivered at OU-Tulsa are also included in this calendar change. All university facilities, including housing and library services, as well as research operations, will remain open.”
According to the email, another factor in the decision is knowing many students will go home for Thanksgiving, some to areas which do not have masking mandates.
“We know a large portion of our residential students will return home for the Thanksgiving holiday — many to locations that do not have strict masking regulations like we do in Norman and at OU,” Harroz wrote. “By moving instruction online and providing the option for students to return home and stay there after Thanksgiving, we will reduce the infection risks associated with travel and subsequently, bringing it back to campus.”
According to the email, information is forthcoming for students who do not wish to remain in on-campus housing until the end of the semester. The fall 2020 and spring 2021 academic calendars for the OU Health Sciences Center programs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa remain unchanged, Harroz wrote.