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By Julian O’Connor, Correspondent
Due to the COVID-19 viral pandemic sweeping the nation, students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University had seen the Fall 2020 semester schedule altered to allow for a shorter, more condensed semester, decreasing chances for travel over breaks to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. With the Fall 2020 semester coming to an end, the University has recently released the schedule for Spring 2021, which is much the same with COVID-19 safety in mind.
The Spring 2021 schedule has the first day of classes on Jan. 20. The normal spring break has been removed, in favor of two days without classes, on March 16 and April 7. April 29 is the last day of classes, and May 1 and 3-6 are final exams (for the Prescott campus). A study day is reserved on April 30.
The Spring schedule is condensed to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19, according to the administration. Prescott Campus Chancellor Dr. Anette Karlsson says, “The conventional spring break was eliminated to minimize community health risks associated with extended travel. Instead of a spring break, to provide everyone with a restorative change of pace, we added two days with no classes. We are also beginning the spring semester a week later than usual.”
Of course, with the news about promising COVID-19 vaccines that may be rolled out by the end of the year, some students may wonder if the schedule could change due to a vaccine. Although Dr. Karlsson says that the vaccine “could possibly be available for healthcare workers as soon as the end of the year,” she adds that “we have to remember that the two promising vaccines announced within the last few weeks require two doses, three to four weeks apart, which will delay the time when it becomes effective.” Because of this, Dr. Karlsson says that “the spring semester schedule will not change,” adding that, in her opinion, modifying the spring schedule “was the right thing to do.” Student Government Association President Melea Tucker says that he believes the condensed schedule “is the best way to keep our students safe, although it may not be the most popular option.”
Although news about vaccines may seem promising, there are also reports of continually increasing COVID-19 cases all around the United States. Even if some students may be worried about a spike in cases leading to a possible closure, Dr. Karlsson says that “we have learned a lot during the fall semester on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus,” adding that “during the spring semester, we will apply all we have learned in hopes of being able to enhance the students’ experience at ERAU, while continuing to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
Despite the uncertainty of the future, Dr. Karlsson said that “all things considered, I think we have been doing great, thanks to everyone taking the precautions seriously.”