Dear Niner Nation,
I hope the winter break brought you some much needed rest and rejuvenation. As we knew, a new year did not bring an automatic end to the challenges we face. However, I am confident our community will continue to find ways to excel while maintaining our commitment to safety.
Today’s update on the spring semester includes changes to our original plan, so please read this message carefully. In addition, I encourage you to sign up for one of our town hall sessions to answer any questions you may have after reading this communication and the additional information on the Niner Nation Cares website.
As I shared in December, we have been closely assessing state and local data and have consulted with public health officials to analyze the ongoing risks associated with COVID-19. The data shows positive cases and positivity rates continue to climb in North Carolina, once again putting strain on critical health care resources. In Mecklenburg County, the positivity rate has continually remained among the highest in the state and projections anticipate the peak of the virus in early February.
We have listened to feedback from our campus community, including Student Government Association (SGA) representatives and faculty and staff leaders about what worked well over the previous year and what could be improved. We have also reviewed the feedback from many students, families and employees on their concerns and priorities as we begin a new semester.
In consideration of all facts and feedback, and in consultation with UNC System President Peter Hans and public health officials, we are making the following adjustments to our spring semester with the health of our campus and larger community as our guiding principle.
Classes will begin as scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 20, but all classes will be delivered online/remotely until Monday, Feb. 22. This decision applies to both undergraduate and graduate classes.
- On Feb. 22, classes scheduled to be hybrid or face-to-face this semester will begin meeting on campus and continue meeting in-person for the remainder of the semester. All other classes will continue in online/remote delivery.
- Classes will end as planned on May 5, with exams beginning May 7.
- Friday, April 30, will once again be a day of remembrance for our community, and no classes will be held. More information on events for that day will be shared later this semester.
We heard overwhelmingly from SGA about the importance of maintaining a weeklong break for the student body during this upcoming semester, especially given that our fall semester didn’t conclude until Dec. 23. To honor that request in the safest possible way, the break will occur from Feb. 8-12, rather than March 29 - April 3 as previously listed.
- There will be no classes during the week of Feb. 8-12, and classes will resume online/remotely from Feb. 15-19.
In consideration of those students moving into residence halls Feb. 18-21 while classes are in session, we will make the following accommodations:
- For undergraduate students, there will be no assignments due or tests administered Feb. 18 and 19.
- Any undergraduate student who must miss class Feb. 18 or 19 to move into a residence hall will have their absence excused. Housing and Residence Life will provide verification as necessary.
- Academic Affairs will provide more information on this directly to faculty members.
Housing and Residence Life (HRL)
- Residential students with extenuating circumstances who need to move in as scheduled Jan. 14-17 may apply for an exception to keep their selected move-in appointment. Those students who received exceptions in the fall and are already residing in residence halls do not need to take additional action. All other students will move in Feb.18-21.
- Additionally, understanding students and their families need time to consider their personal circumstances with this new information, residents may choose to cancel their housing and associated meal plan contract without penalty until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15, by visiting the Housing and Residence Life website.
- More information about on-campus housing will be emailed directly to residents from HRL.
Off-Campus Students and Employees
Consistent with the state’s most recent guidance, North Carolinians are encouraged to remain at home as much as possible. If you are currently staying at your permanent residence away from the Charlotte area, we encourage you to consider remaining there until the start of in-person classes in February. Employees, please continue maximizing teleworking whenever possible and with the approval of your supervisor.
We will adjust our meal plans to be reflective of the changes to in-person instruction. Updated amended meal plan details and rates will be available on the Auxiliary Services Meal Plan webpage by Friday, Jan. 15. You can also contact the Meal Plan Office to discuss your options.
Testing, Health and Safety
We will continue using our daily Niner Health Check and wastewater testing this semester. Both of these tools were critical in our ability to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on our campus during the fall. Additionally, we are adding re-entry testing and enhancing mitigation testing for the spring to enable us further in identifying asymptomatic cases of the virus on our campus.
- Re-entry testing: Any student with an exception to remain in the residence halls, those who receive exceptions to move into their residence hall as scheduled in January, and students with meal plans who plan to dine on campus in January will need to complete re-entry testing soon. Please review this important information for more details.
- All other students and employees meeting the criteria for re-entry testing will be tested in conjunction with the start of in-person classes in February. Participation in re-entry testing is required. More information will be sent directly to these individuals by Friday, Feb. 5.
- Mitigation testing: We will expand our weekly mitigation testing beginning this semester to all individuals who meet the same criteria for re-entry testing. Last semester, only residential students participated in mitigation testing. Participation in this testing is required, and selection will be randomized each week. Testing will start in January for all students who have an exception to live on campus and those with a meal plan; testing for all other students, faculty and staff identified for re-entry testing will begin after the return to in-person instruction. More information will be shared directly with those meeting the requirements no later than Friday, Feb. 5.
We understand that this revised schedule will require many of you to make changes to existing plans, and I can assure you these adjustments were not made lightly. However, they were made with the health and well-being of our community as our priority. The delay of in-person classes will allow local and state health officials to progress with vaccination plans and provide additional time to slow the surge of cases in our area.
I want to thank you again for the patience, flexibility and incredible resilience you’ve demonstrated throughout these challenging times. We remain steadfast in our commitment to provide our students an exceptional educational experience while keeping Niner Nation healthy.
I look ahead to this new year and new semester with optimism, knowing our future together is bright.
Sharon L. Gaber