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Thousands more University of Delaware students will be returning to campus this spring with in-person learning resuming at a much higher rate.

"Spring classes will be taught face-to-face whenever possible. We expect to offer far more in-person academic experiences than have been available in the fall semester while continuing to fine tune the mix of face-to-face and online courses," said UD President Dr. Dennis Assanis.

Classes with with 50 or more students will be online, though smaller in-person breakout sessions will be offered where possible. 

"All instructors teaching face-to-face courses will continue to be prepared to go online, if necessary," Assanis cautioned.

In a letter to the campus community, Assanis said the university community's embracing of the "Protect the Flock" mindset has allowed this plan to move forward. After being home to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Delaware in March, the university will ramp up testing efforts this spring to conduct 4,000 tests per week, up from 1,000 now, so that those who test positive for COVID-19 can quickly be identified and quarantined. 

"These successes — and the culture of caring that is always a hallmark of the UD community — give us confidence to move forward with our plans to continue phasing in a more robust on-campus experience," the university president said.

Residence halls will open at 60% capacity, allowing 4,000 students to live on-campus, a dramatically higher rate than the 20% permitted in the fall semester. First priority for on-campus living will be given to freshman with students will be housed primarily in single rooms.

"Knowing how valuable the on-campus experience can be, we will give priority to first-year students, helping them build bonds with their new classmates," said Assanis.

Second priority for on-campus living will go to seniors.

"So they can pursue internships, research projects and other hands-on experiences to prepare them to enter the workforce after graduation," Assanis said.

At least two dining halls will be open to feed students.

Students who choose an on-campus living option, but do not get one due to capacity restraints, will be offered a remote learning experience, a spokeswoman told WDEL.

"A large number of the upperclassmen are already living in Newark in their off-campus apartments. Students choose their own schedules. While it won’t be possible in every case, the university will make every effort to offer online versions of courses that are meeting face-to-face," said Andrea Boyle.

Students who choose not to return to campus for health or personal reasons will also be offered a remote learning experience; however, for hands-on lab or studio classes, that won't be possible.

However, Boyle told WDEL that tuition will remain the same whether a student partakes in the in-person or remote learning experience. The university is facing an unprecedented $268 million budget gap tied to COVID-19, which spawned a tuition freeze, dropping enrollment, and several cost-cutting measures including staff layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts, early retirements, and temporary reductions to retirement contributions. To combat the deficit, the university also took $100 million from its $1.4 billion endowment. 

Students who need accommodations due to an underlying medical condition or disability should work with the Office of Disability Support Services.

Spring semester to start later

The spring semester will begin one week later than planned, on February 15, and run through May 27 with no spring break, as a precautionary health measure.

"This will reduce campus activities during the flu season, provide more time for a longer move-in process and allow more campus activities to take place in warmer weather," said Assanis.

The last day of the spring semester will be May 18 with finals concluding May 27. Commencement is planned for May 29.

Registration for spring semester begins Nov. 9.

Athletics

All sports postponed from this past fall, including football, will move to the spring, starting January 23. Winter sports, including men's and women's basketball, will begin November 25. Spring sports will continue as planned, but all competition schedules will likely be shortened or modified to avoid air travel and overnight stays. 

But in the letter Assanis cautions, all of this is subject to change.

"It is difficult to say with certainty what will happen in the weeks and months ahead, so our plans must remain flexible to accommodate the evolving nature of the pandemic. Adherence to the health and safety measures implemented by UD and required by local and state authorities will continue to be critical to the success of our operations and, more importantly, to the health, safety and overall wellbeing of our community," he said.

Read Assanis' full letter to the campus community by clicking here.