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Announcing J-term and Spring 2021 plans

Posted by:
October 14, 2020

To: PLU Community
From: Office of the Provost

Dear PLU Community,

As our highest priority remains the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, PLU has adopted a new calendar for J-Term and the Spring 2021 semester.

The primary rationale for adjusting the calendar is minimizing our community members’ entrance to and exit from campus en masse—activities that necessitate quarantine and testing processes for students, and introduce increased risk to all members of our communities. The same priority of health and safety has also informed our decisions about instructional modality, which we describe below.

Read on for:

  • Specific changes to the J-Term and Spring 2021 calendars, including the delayed start of J-Term for most students and the compression of the spring semester calendar
  • Details about instructional modality for each term
  • Instructions for opting in to remote learning
  • Housing and dining information for J-term and Spring 2021

January Term 2021

January Term, or J-Term, allows students to immerse themselves in one course for four weeks, focusing on a topic in their major field or experiencing something in a new area of study. J-Term is intentionally designed as a period for discovery and innovation that builds an intentional culture of learning inside and outside the classroom. With the exception of a small number of courses with experiential elements (select clinical and didactic courses, practica, field placements, or internships), J-Term classes will be held online.

This year, our J-Term calendar has been adjusted to reflect our priorities of health and safety. The schedule for most courses has been shifted forward two weeks, meaning that most students’ J-Term experience will begin and end two weeks later than the calendar originally showed. Exceptions to this calendar are select courses in the School of Nursing and some program-specific dates for the experiential elements of certain courses (such as clinical placements, practica, field placements, or internships). Additionally, some of our graduate programs may also soon announce dates that align more closely with the original calendar. These exceptions will be communicated separately by each program prior to registration.

Our updated calendar is as follows:

  • School of Nursing* Classes Begin: Monday, January 4
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Monday, January 18—No classes; offices closed
  • All Other University Classes Begin**: Tuesday, January 19
  • School of Nursing* Classes End: Friday, January 29
  • All Other University Classes End**: Friday, February 12*Select clinical and didactic classes only.
    **Some graduate programs may announce program-specific start/end dates in the coming weeks; the timeline for starting/ending experiential elements of select courses may also vary from this schedule.

The interactive schedule will be updated to show J-Term/Spring 2021 courses on October 23, in advance of advising and registration periods.

Spring 2021

With J-Term now ending in February, the spring calendar has also been modified. The most notable calendar shift is the elimination of our traditional spring break, a move that will likely be unsurprising to those who have seen similar decisions made at other universities. Unlike many of our peers, we will be observing the Good Friday holiday (the Friday of our original spring break), which we hope provides a mid-term opportunity for observance, rest, and rejuvenation.

The elimination of spring break makes possible a later start date to the term, which we have intentionally scheduled to follow a holiday weekend. This schedule permits a minimally disruptive return to campus for residential students whose requisite quarantine/testing processes would have otherwise interfered with the beginning of spring classes.

Our updated spring calendar is as follows:

  • Presidents’ Day: Monday, February 15—No classes, PLU offices closed
  • Classes Begin: Wednesday, February 17
  • Good Friday: Friday, April 2—No classes, PLU offices closed
  • Classes End: Saturday, May 22
  • Final Examinations: Monday, May 24–Friday, May 28
  • Spring Semester Ends: Friday, May 28
  • Commencement: Saturday, May 29

We are planning for a mix of blended and online classes for spring. As of this writing, students can anticipate having more opportunities for in-person instruction than they’ve had this fall. We’ve opened up additional large spaces on campus for teaching with physical-distancing measures in place, erected tents for outdoor teaching, and established clear protocols for classroom cleaning and disinfection.

That being said, there are two very important variables to underscore that may affect our instructional plans.

First, the public-health situation continues to evolve. It is impossible to make a pronouncement in October about what February through May will look like. We are hopeful that conditions will improve, particularly after the winter months are behind us, but our Campus Status Dial is dynamic and will move as conditions on campus and in the region change. This means that we’re preparing for more in-person instruction, but we want to be transparent in acknowledging the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Second, as long as we are experiencing a global pandemic, we will continue to offer faculty the opportunity to teach remotely. We offer this as a caveat to set student expectations accordingly, but we also mention it as a point of pride. At PLU, our Lutheran heritage calls us to value the whole person—and that means extending the same expression of care to faculty whose pedagogy and personal circumstances align with their teaching remotely as we do to students who choose to learn remotely. Students will be able to see the planned instructional method of each of their courses when the interactive schedule goes live on October 23.

Options for Remote Learning

Just as we made the option available to all students to participate in classes remotely for Fall 2020, so we will do for J-Term and Spring 2021. No documentation is required.

The Office of Accessibility and Accommodation (OAA) is managing students’ requests for fully remote learning. To register for remote learning for J-term and/or Spring, please complete this brief form on the OAA site.

Housing Availability and Options

On-campus housing will continue to be offered in the form of single rooms and South Hall apartments for J-Term and the spring semester. Current on-campus residents will have the option of renewing their housing, and new applications from current and incoming students will be accepted.

Current on-campus residents will receive an email from Residential Life on Monday, October 19, 2020, that fully outlines housing options and processes from Thanksgiving 2020 through Spring 2021. This information will prepare you to complete the survey/application you will be emailed on Monday, October 26, 2020.

Reminder: all current residents agreed to a Fall Semester ONLY Housing Addendum, and must complete this survey/application in order to remain in on-campus housing for J-Term and/or Spring. The deadline for completion will be 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 1, 2020.

Updated information for potential new applicants regarding housing options and processes will be posted on the J-Term & Spring Housing page, no later than Monday, October 19, 2020.

Thank you for your flexibility as we work together to provide a healthier and safer environment for the entire campus community. We understand that PLU’s students, families, faculty, staff, and community members are in many different places and have many different needs, sensitivities, and desires regarding this pandemic.

Again, we hope that given the flexibility of our campus plans, and the ability to choose the teaching and learning environment that meets your needs, you find comfort. We are confident that with the comprehensiveness of our health and safety measures, focused squarely on mitigating risk to our community to the best of our ability, you may also find strength.

Thank you for coming together and helping to face a health threat unlike any other in our lifetimes. This pandemic drives home the essential interconnectedness of our global family and our Lute community.

Looking through winter to the spring ahead—we will get through this, together.

Joanna Gregson
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Allan Belton

Joanna Royce-Davis
Vice President for Student Life

Teri Phillips
Chief Operating Officer