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Update on Start of C-Term/Spring Semester

Note: This is dated information and may not reflect the current policies in place on campus. Please refer to We Are WPI for the latest information.

December 8, 2020

With B-Term/Fall Semester wrapping up soon, I am so grateful for everything you’ve done to help this university successfully live and learn together during this pandemic. This was no easy feat, and your efforts are noted and deeply appreciated. To help you best prepare for the C-Term/spring semester, I want to share that we have adjusted the academic calendar to reflect a later start and we will begin classes on Thursday, January 28, 2021.

Of course, this adjustment will have timing implications for the rest of the academic year and I want to share some of the major highlights:

  • Students will have nearly seven full weeks off between the end of B-Term/fall semester and the start of C-Term/spring semester classes on Thursday, January 28, 2021 (please rest and recharge, everyone!).
  • Within the spring calendar we have extended the break between C and D -Term by one day; undergraduate and graduate students will now have a 5-day break from March 19 – 23.
  • To create a long weekend for students during C-Term, no classes will be held on Friday, February 26.
  • During D-Term, Patriot’s Day, Monday, April 19, is a WPI holiday, so there will be no undergraduate or graduate classes; additionally, there will be no undergraduate or graduate classes on Project Presentation Day, Friday, April 30.  
  • Commencement for the Class of 2021 will be moved one week later: Graduate Commencement will take place on May 20, and Undergraduate Commencement will be held on May 22, 2021. Details regarding the Class of 2020 Commencement are still being determined and information will be shared soon. 
  • Classes for E1 will begin on May 24 and take place over seven weeks, ending on July 9. 
  • E2 classes will begin on July 12, and will span five weeks, ending on August 13. 
  • Graduate summer classes will begin on May 24, and will run for 10 weeks, ending on July 29.

More details will be forthcoming (from appropriate sources) as plans are being finalized—regarding such things as onboarding testing for students and employees who are returning from the break, residence hall move-in, and summer activities. You can expect those details before December 23. 

How We Got Here

This decision was made with the guidance of our Coronavirus Emergency Response Team (CERT), in consultation with faculty and students, and with the health and safety of our community as our top priority; the CDC currently predicts high rates of illness and a dangerous strain on the nation’s healthcare system in December and January. Therefore, delaying student’s return and the start of classes is the prudent thing to do and, as was the case in August, our Spring reopening process will be deliberate and careful.  

Why This Timing Matters

Throughout the fall, WPI’s rate of positive COVID test results was notably lower than regional, statewide, and national rates. That success has been due in large part to our robust testing program, which helps to catch and contain the virus through isolation of infected individuals and quarantining of their close contacts. Our students, faculty and staff have also successfully established routines in such a way that minimize contacts and gatherings and allow for safer living and learning. And, last but certainly not least, our Health Services team’s continued monitoring, testing, and caring for this community in close collaboration with the Worcester Division of Public Health has also been essential in creating WPI’s “protective bubble,” which we aim to recreate for C-Term/the spring semester.

Delaying the start of classes allows us necessary time to do this important work and puts a little more space between the CDC’s predicted height of illness and bringing our community back to campus. This timing also gets us through the height of cold and flu season and brings us closer to warmer spring weather when our community will be able to spend more time outdoors, in fresh air, which is important in slowing the spread of virus. (And, dare we hope, it brings us closer even to the potential for vaccinations.) 

Our same high goals, standards, and infrastructure remain in place, and we will implement all necessary pre-arrival and on-boarding COVID testing.  In the coming weeks you may be asked for information as we move forward with plans and preparations; as always, that help is both critical and appreciated. It bears repeating: this is not the time to let down our guards. We must maintain vigilance.

As we finish this term/semester and head into the holiday break, my dearest wish is for the health and safety of you all. Please continue to take care of yourselves and each other and remember to follow the science and guidelines – wherever you may be.

Teamwork is an essential component of a WPI education because it is an essential part of any success – on campus or around the world.  I have faith that we can successfully address the great problems presented to us by this pandemic, but only by continuing to work together.