Omicron Strikes: Stanford Moves 1st Two Weeks Of January Classes Online

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All classes at Stanford University will be held online for the first two weeks of winter quarter, which begins January 3, according to a report in The Stanford Daily. University officials made the announcement Thursday (December 15) amid a holiday surge in coronavirus cases at universities and elsewhere nationwide.

Additionally, Stanford students — including those at the Graduate School of Business — will be required to get a booster vaccine dose by the end of January, the Daily reports.

“We’ve all been watching in recent days as Covid-19 cases have increased in some parts of the country, and as other universities have seen surges on their campuses,” Provost Persis Drell and Vice Provost for Environmental Health & Safety Russell Furr wrote in an email to the Stanford community.

“While there continue to be positive signs that the Omicron variant may lead to milder cases of COVID-19, its transmissibility this winter remains a concern.”

QUARTER SYSTEM SPARES FINALS SCHEDULE

The winter quarter will begin as scheduled on January 3 for most Stanford students, Drell and Furr wrote, and in-person instruction is expected to resume January 18, after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend. They wrote that the school expects students and instructors to be on campus for the winter quarter.

Stanford GSB released a statement of its own on Thursday evening: “Following Stanford University’s announcement today, we’ve informed Stanford GSB students and faculty that Winter Quarter class meetings at the GSB will initially be online, with in-person classes resuming Tuesday, January 18.  Stanford made this decision due to logistical challenges of a large group of people returning to campus and also to provide as much predictability as possible – not out of any worry about in-class transmission of the virus. Of course, we will remain flexible as the virus continues to evolve.”

Stanford’s use of the quarter system helped the school avoid the fate of other universities around the country — and globally — as the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 wreaked havoc on final exam schedules. At Cornell University, more than 400 new cases were confirmed over the weekend of December 11-12, and another 276 confirmed positives were reported via the school’s Covid-19 dashboard on Monday, December 13. The next day, Cornell announced the closure of its Ithaca campus and the move online or rescheduling of all exams, as well las the cancellation of winter graduation ceremonies.

Similar moves have been made at Princeton University, New York University, and Georgetown University. On Wednesday (December 16), the University of Toronto, including the Rotman School of Management, announced that all in-person exams would be postponed and most in-person learning delayed until January 31 to help curb the spread of Covid-19 amid the emergence of the Omicron variant.

STUDENT GATHERINGS ALSO WILL BE RESTRICTED

According to The Stanford Daily, the university’s student newspaper, most students had completed finals by December 11, thus obviating a 2021 campus closure. The university did see a small surge in cases after Thanksgiving, the Daily reports.

The newspaper reports that Drell and Furr wrote that students will also be asked to take a Covid-19 test before returning to campus; all eligible students “will be required to provide documentation of a booster, unless they have a medical or religious accommodation, by January 31. Stanford previously required all undergraduate, graduate and professional students to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 before returning to campus in the fall.”

Student gatherings also will be limited for the first two weeks of the quarter, the Daily reports.

“Our concern is not about the safety of classrooms or workplaces at Stanford, but about the logistical challenges of supporting students amid the uncertainties of Omicron,” Drell and Furr wrote.

DON’T MISS SURGING COVID CASES CLOSE CORNELL’S ITHACA CAMPUS and HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL MOVES MBA CLASSES ONLINE AS COVID CASES SURGE

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