Fall classes will start earlier and go straight through until Nov. 20


Pitt is planning to start the fall semester a few days earlier than originally planned — Aug. 19 instead of Aug. 24 — and end classes on Nov. 20, the Friday before Thanksgiving, Provost Ann Cudd said in an email message today to Pitt students and families. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher followed up Cudd's message later in the day with a more detailed outline of some of the plans for the fall semester.

Find information about Pitt's planning for the fall semester and response to COVID-19 at coronavirus.pitt.edu.

This type of schedule is being adopted by several universities to limit the back and forth travel of students between campus and their homes to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Students will not return to campus after the Thanksgiving break.

On Friday, the academic calendar for the University was revised to say that fall classes would begin remotely on Aug. 19 and in person, "when appropriate," on Aug. 24. "When appropriate" for in-person classes refers to the possibility that some very large enrollment classes will not be able to be run in a fully in-person mode and may require rotating cohorts of students due to physical infrastructure restrictions because of social distancing.

The University's planning website, coronavirus.pitt.edu, says the new remote start "will enable all students to have an equitable start to their semester, regardless of whether they can physically make it back to campus by the earlier date due to leases or other considerations. Also, in the event that we need to run some classes in a rotating cohort mode, the remote start allows those details to be conveyed to the entire group in the same format."

There will be an extended final exam period for the fall semester, Cudd said, that includes the possibility of holding in-person exams on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 23 and 24, and holding remote exams the week after Thanksgiving. The fall semester will end on Dec. 5.

In addition, there will be class on Labor Day Monday, Sept. 7, which is normally a University holiday.

Cudd said in her original letter that Welcome Week is being planned for the week of Aug. 10, but later in the day she and Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner clarified in separate emails to students and parents that move in would be Aug. 13 to 16 and Welcome Week for new students will be condensed to Aug. 16 to 18. The provost said in her second message that the first email was sent inadvertently and "did not have the full list of updates for your upcoming fall semester. We apologize for pushing send too soon."

Bonner said he will be hosting a virtual town hall for students on June 18 to answer any questions.

Gallagher's letter also said the on-campus housing program "will be operational regardless of the pandemic’s intensity." He said Pitt will be modifying how it has historically used residence halls—including looking for ways to de-densify these facilities — and considering alternative options to help address the demand for student housing. Cudd's email said that Pitt "will accommodate all those students who made housing deposits by the deadline."

"To ensure that our infection prevention and control program is successful, we must rethink how every space on campus will be used," Gallagher said. "Our current planning efforts are focused on defining which classrooms can and cannot remain open across all operational risk postures. As part of this work, we are exploring modifications and restrictions that can help maximize the use of our existing facilities while simultaneously minimizing risks related to the novel coronavirus."

Classes will rely on a hybrid approach to teaching and learning, Gallagher said in his message. This “HyFlex” approach will use technology-enhanced classrooms that can serve both in-person attendees and remote attendees at once. Cudd said in in a separate email to faculty that the Canvas learning management system should be used in all courses. Faculty members had been given an extension to switch from Blackboard to Canvas, but were already being urged to make the change as soon as possible.

She also said that the number of people in a given classroom will be limited, which means that all students enrolled in a class may not be able to attend class in person at all times.

On Monday, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced the formation of the Chancellor’s Healthcare Advisory Group to help guide University decision makers in their response to the COVID-19 virus. The committee is chaired by Anantha Shekhar, the new senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences, and includes medical, legal and emergency preparedness experts.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 412-648-4294.


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