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Eckerd President Damián Fernández emailed the Eckerd community updates to the spring semester schedule on Oct. 14, detailing modifications to the Winter Term and spring semester dates, a one day long spring break and surveillance and pre-arrival testing plans. 

Winter Term will have on-campus courses beginning Jan. 11 and move-in for returning students will be phased from Jan. 6 - 9. This is one week later than the usual Winter Term start date. Students will receive their designated move-in dates for Winter Term the week of Nov. 16 and new and returning students who are moving on campus for the first time this year will move in on Jan. 8. All students will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test before arriving.

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison said this extended winter break allows students more time for pre-arrival testing and gives Eckerd more time to deep clean the campus and get ready for ongoing surveillance testing. It also gives students more time to stay at home since students are asked not to travel home for Thanksgiving. 

Spring semester will begin on Feb. 8 and will follow the normal 14-week format with no blocks or modules. Spring break will be reduced to one day, Monday, March 15, instead of the typical week-long break. 

According to Harrison, this decision was made in part to limit the increased exposure to the virus associated with spring break travel.

“Unfortunately, we cannot just cut days out of our semester because of credit-hour requirements by the Department of Education and our regional accrediting agency. We also don't want to extend the spring semester until the Memorial Day weekend,” Harrison said.

Junior Sonny Schoenhoft spoke on the possible effects of this decision.

“I definitely think not having a spring break is going to cause burnout a lot sooner. I know for me, I can normally get through the first half of the semester because I know I have a break coming up,” Schoenhoft said.

COVID-19 testing protocols changed just before the arrival of juniors and seniors beginning Oct. 22. Weekly testing will occur with students, faculty and staff selected from a randomized pool of participants. Participants will be informed each Friday if they are to prepare to be tested the following Monday. These results will be posted on the COVID-19 Dashboard. 

“Spontaneous testing will be a good thing because if you’re not testing anyone, then you don’t know who has it. But if you’re spontaneous testing it’ll be easier to keep track of it,” Schoenhoft said.

Additionally, testing will be required before returning to in-person classes in January. These tests must be secured in students’ own communities immediately prior to returning to campus.

Assistant Dean for Health and Wellness Services Linda Abbott said, “Our hope is most students will have no trouble finding a test in their hometown, or wherever they are spending their winter break.” 

If students are unable to find a testing place locally, they can contact Health and Wellness Services to find online options like Vault or similar companies who can ship them a test directly.

More updates and surveys will be communicated through email later in fall semester.

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