Fall semester to start and end early

In an effort to complete classes on campus, the fall semester will start a week early and wrap up the day before Thanksgiving.

“We are making every effort to maximize in-person learning and the student learning experiences that are a defining characteristic of an Iowa State education,” said President Wendy Wintersteen. “Adjusting the calendar will allow us to complete the semester before Thanksgiving and minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 due to holiday travel.”

Town hall on Friday

President Wendy Wintersteen and other senior leaders will hold their third virtual town hall June 12 (2-3 p.m.). The town hall is an opportunity to discuss and ask questions about fall plans.

Join the town hall virtually via Webex Events. Webex Events is limited to 1,000 attendees, and overflow viewing will be available on YouTube. To join by phone, call 415-655-0001 and enter event number/access code 120 692 5212.

Attendees joining via Webex Events and can ask questions by typing them in the Q&A box. Other attendees will not be able to pose questions live, but can send questions to COVID-19@iastate.edu, and senior leaders will follow up with answers following the town hall.

The town hall will be recorded and posted on the campus safety page within a day or two.

In a June 10 message to the campus community, Wintersteen announced several initiatives recommended by the executive committee on fall planning. This includes changes to the academic calendar as well as plans for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, class size and delivery, and occupancy rates for the residence halls to limit the spread of illness on campus.

Fall classes will begin on Aug. 17. The semester, including final exams, will end Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. Classes will be held on Labor Day. John Lawrence, vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach and chair of the fall planning committee, says the group has met daily since early May to develop a plan to safely reinstate teaching and research programs.

“We’ve made several important decisions, but our work is ongoing,” Lawrence said. “What we know about COVID-19 will change between now and when classes start in August. We are working through a variety of issues to make sure the university is prepared.”

Class sizes and delivery modes

Changes implemented this fall will balance the university’s academic mission with the need to keep students, faculty and staff safe and healthy. These include:

  • Reducing the number of students in a classroom
  • Expecting students and professors to wear face coverings
  • Modifying time between classes to avoid congestion in campus buildings, walkways, buses, etc.

Many classes will be offered in multiple delivery options (in-person, online, hybrid) to meet the varied needs of students and faculty, including the need for individuals to self-isolate if they are exposed to the virus. Courses with labs, studio sections, capstone projects and other interactive experiences will largely be delivered through in-person instruction.

Lawrence says the committee is also looking beyond the classroom at the whole student experience. 

“While campus will be different, we are making every effort to prioritize experiential learning opportunities,” Lawrence said. “We know that clubs and other activities are also important, so we have a group dedicated to the student experience.”   

Residence and dining

Residence halls will offer single and double occupancy, supplemented by additional cleaning practices and other measures that prioritize the safety of students and staff. Students will be required to be tested for COVID-19 before moving in to on-campus housing. Some spaces will be reserved for students living in residence halls who may need to self-isolate or quarantine during the semester.

ISU Dining will modify operations to reduce capacities, eliminate self-service options in dining halls and expand takeout options, among other measures.

Testing, tracing and reducing spread

Thielen Student Health Center is working to develop plans for comprehensive COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff. This will include contact tracing to identify those who may have been exposed in offices, classrooms, residence halls and other facilities. These efforts will be done in collaboration with county and state public health partners.

Keeping safe

All students, faculty, staff and visitors who are able are expected to wear a face covering or face shield while in the presence of others, and where other strategies such as physical distancing are not available. This same guidance is already in place for faculty and staff returning to campus this summer.

Students and employees also are encouraged to adhere to recommended health practices such as wearing face coverings and physical distancing while elsewhere in the community, such as when shopping at stores.

"Although it will not be possible to mitigate every risk, every person must contribute to reducing those risks," Wintersteen said in her campus message.


Email questions about fall planning to COVID-19@iastate.edu.