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Clark University Spring Reopening Announced

To the Clark Community,

We write today to announce our plan for Clark University’s Spring 2021 semester. We reached a decision after extensive consultation — including input from students, faculty, staff, and public health officials — as well as analysis informed by several predictive models and other data.

When we first announced a tentative schedule for the spring semester, we noted that the virulent and unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic might compel us to alter our plans. This is indeed the case.

Spring-term classes will begin as planned on Monday, February 22. However, all classes will be conducted online to start, as we think it best to delay the return of students to campus.

We are now inviting students to return to campus starting on Friday, March 5, instead of Thursday, February 18, as previously announced. As was the case in August, students will be asked to return on specific days; that information will be forthcoming soon. Room and board will be refunded on a prorated basis after students return to campus.

This two-week period in fully remote mode should allow for what we forecast to be much needed improvement in the COVID-19 trends in the Worcester region. As before, we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and the prevalence of the disease currently expected in Worcester in late February is concerning. Hence, the change to the following schedule:

  • All classes will begin on Monday, February 22, in fully remote mode.
  • Move-in days for those choosing to return to campus will be Friday and Saturday, March 5 and 6.
  • All classes will be canceled on Friday, March 5, to accommodate travel and moving back to campus.
  • All classes will continue to be held remotely on Monday and Tuesday, March 8 and 9.
  • In-person and hybrid classes will begin on Wednesday, March 10. Classes pre-determined to be conducted online will continue in that format for the remainder of the semester.

As with last semester, our students can choose whether or not to return to campus to study. Our faculty are offering an array of courses in remote, in-person, and hybrid modes that supply the full intellectual heft of a Clark education regardless of modality. Like many of our students, they are eager to return to the classroom, whether that classroom is inside Jonas Clark Hall or via a Zoom screen.

We understand and appreciate the uncertainty and disruption that the pandemic has caused in nearly every aspect of life, including the college experience. We are confident that we have created a prudent timeline and plan to promote an effective and smooth transition for our students, who continue to astound us with their ability to adapt to these historic circumstances with grace and persistence.

In this regard, experience favors us. Clark demonstrated last fall that we can provide an enriching and safe in-person experience with solid planning, ongoing monitoring of trends, and assertive testing, policies/protocols, and rapid response. When the semester ended, we had administered 85,747 COVID-19 tests, which yielded 44 positive results. The positivity rate of .058 percent was one of the lowest for colleges and universities in Massachusetts and earned us attention in several media outlets, including The Washington Post.

We intend to reopen Clark under the same guiding principles — articulated in The Clark Commitment — and the same disciplined attention to anti-COVID practices, from strict sanitization protocols to the de-densifying of classrooms and common areas, that fostered success in the fall and supply us a road map for the spring.

Our testing regimen will continue to be rigorous, with students undergoing pre-arrival and arrival testing, and subsequent surveillance testing every three days throughout the semester. Staff and faculty will be tested every seven days.

While we are excited to be moving forward into the spring semester, we will continue to evaluate local and state health data in the coming weeks to determine if the positivity rates are trending in a direction that will support this revised reopening plan. We must underscore that plans and/or operations can change if conditions significantly worsen. Again, our first and highest priority is the health and safety of our community.

A decision about spring athletics as part of the New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference, of which Clark is a member, has been deferred until late February in response to the same health metrics that led us to alter our return to campus plans.

Thank you to all our students and their families, and to faculty and staff, who have waited patiently for news about the resumption of on-campus activities. We know lives are more complicated than ever today and we are doing everything we can to make the opening of our spring semester as seamless and well-organized as possible. To help, students will soon receive a follow-up email from Dean of Students Francy Magee with more details concerning student life and answers to the most anticipated questions.

Our community is poised for an unprecedented Spring 2021. Let’s start strong and finish even stronger. See you in our virtual classrooms February 22 and on campus starting March 5.

With appreciation and best wishes,

David Fithian, President
Davis Baird, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs