Breaking down Colorado College's new academic calendar

'The only certainty is that more disruption is ahead'

Welcome to the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project

We have a lot of questions about how COVID-19 will affect college life in the fall, and maybe you do, too. 

That’s why we created the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project, a student-faculty collaboration by Colorado College student journalists Miriam Brown and Arielle Gordon, Journalism Institute Director Steven Hayward, Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism Corey Hutchins, and Assistant Professor of English Najnin Islam. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and a National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear from time to time.

The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community. Today we start by breaking down changes to the college’s 2020-21 academic schedule, announced last week by the president and provost. We also recap how other colleges and universities in Colorado are approaching the coming fall semester, as well as other small liberal arts colleges around the nation. 

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CC scrambled its academic calendar. So let’s sort it out. 

The background: You may have seen the Block Plan featured this month in a pair of recent articles exploring ways in which colleges might continue classes in the fall while maintaining protective measures against COVID-19. Baylor University professor Perry Glanzer argued the benefits of using block scheduling in Inside Higher Ed, and Alan Townsend, who will be CC’s interim president starting Aug. 1, made an appearance on NPR’s “All Things Considered” to talk about potential benefits block scheduling can bring right now. 

“It's easier for us to now think creatively for next year,” Townsend told NPR’s Elissa Nadworny. But members of the CC community hadn’t heard much about what that creativity could entail — until now. 

On May 21, outgoing president Jill Tiefenthaler and Townsend announced in an email to the CC community how the new academic calendar for next year will look. Spoiler: It comes with a lot of ‘ifs.’

The highlights:

  • CC will offer 11 blocks during the 2020-21 school year, starting in August and continuing through summer 2021. This includes the standard eight blocks, a new “J Block” in January, and two summer blocks.

  • If the fall semester is entirely remote, CC will add a 12th block, which will take place during the summer.

  • Students can take up to 10 blocks for the standard comprehensive fee instead of the usual 8.5 blocks. 

  • If classes are able to be held on-campus, CC will accommodate students who need to take a class remotely because of travel restrictions or health vulnerabilities.

  • CC is also shortening spring break to one week, making plans to hold the class of 2021 commencement on Sunday, May 23, and moving the class of 2020 commencement to Sunday, May 30.

  • If Block 1 is held online, move-in and New Student Orientation will be held Sept. 17-20, and if both Blocks 1 and 2 are held online, they will take place Oct. 15-18.

The next steps: Members of the CC community likely still have plenty of questions.

“We understand that our students, parents, faculty, and staff would like certainty,” the email read. “However, we can’t provide that yet. The only certainty is that more disruption is ahead.”

So should faculty and students make sure all their Zoom credentials are up to date? Probably a good idea. But we should expect an announcement about how fall classes will look by the end of June. You can find the full schedule on CC’s website along with a list of frequently asked questions about the changes. 

Back-to-school shopping? Higher-ed plans for the fall under COVID-19.

This month, there have already been a steady stream of announcements about plans for the upcoming fall semester from colleges and universities across the country. If you haven’t been obsessively monitoring Twitter for every one, don’t worry, we have you covered.

Here’s what some other Colorado colleges and universities have decided:

  • The University of Northern Colorado, located in Greeley with more than 12,000 students, announced April 30 it is planning for an on-campus semester with a traditional August start date.

  • The University of Denver, which has about 11,600 students, plans to hold classes in-person when its fall quarter begins in September.

  • Colorado State University in Fort Collins, which has around 33,400 students, announced fall classes will take place on campus.

  • Colorado Mesa University, which is in Grand Junction and has over 11,000 students, plans to hold an in-person semester in the fall and announced a “Safe Together, Strong Together” initiative, a planning process that includes authorities from Mesa County Public Health, Community Hospital, and St. Mary’s Hospital.

  • Adams State University in Alamosa, which has around 3,700 students, said it has “every intention of resuming in-person classroom instruction for fall” and will work with state and community partners to ensure it meets public health guidance. 

  • The University of Colorado Boulder, which has over 33,000 students, announced on May 26 its plan for fall classes to start on campus Aug. 24 and finish remotely after Thanksgiving break. Its “road map to fall 2020” also includes measures such as on-campus COVID-19 testing capabilities, requiring masks for all students and employees, and a 0% tuition increase.

  • Colorado School of Mines in Golden, which has around 6,500 students, is planning to begin in-person instruction in August but is also working on other contingency options for the fall semester. 

Here’s what some other similarly-sized, private liberal arts schools say they’re doing:

  • Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts with about 2,000 undergraduate students, plans to reduce the minimum number of classes students need to take each semester from four classes to three and plans to cancel its Winter Study program. 

  • Oberlin College and Conservatory, in Oberlin, Ohio with about 2,900 undergraduate students, announced on May 5 it is “planning and working towards” a fall semester on campus and is examining late August/September or October start dates as potential options.

  • Macalester College, in Saint Paul, Minnesota with about 2,100 undergraduate students, has a “strong preference” for two in-person semesters and is discussing possibilities including a delayed November start. The college announced on May 6 it will not allow students to study away from campus in the fall. 

  • Rhodes College, in Memphis, Tennessee with about 2,000 undergraduate students, is planning to start classes as initially scheduled in late August, following a traditional new student Welcome Week. Its alternative plans include delaying the semester’s start date, implementing “blocks,” and rescheduling fall break.

And that’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you in your inbox tomorrow.