Middlebury to hold delayed on-campus spring semester, remote J-Term

By Riley Board and Hattie LeFavour

All students will be invited back for the spring 2021 semester, according to an Oct. 8 announcement from the college. J-Term will be remote, and the spring semester will have a delayed start, with classes beginning March 1. (Benjy Renton)

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly. 

  • Middlebury plans to welcome all students back to campus for the spring semester. Students will arrive on Feb. 24 and 25 after a two-week home quarantine period. Classes will begin on March 1 and will be conducted remotely for the first week. 
  • J-Term will be conducted remotely and will take place from Jan. 19 to Feb. 12, followed by a two week break before spring classes begin. 
  • After classes begin in the spring, they will continue through May 21 with finals week beginning on May 23. Spring break and senior week have been cancelled.
  • Feb graduation may occur at the end of the fall 2020 semester. Spring 2021 commencement will be held on May 30 either in person or remotely, depending on conditions. 
  • The college has committed to wage continuity for all employees through the spring semester. 

Middlebury plans to reopen its campus to all students for the spring 2020 semester with delayed arrival on Feb. 24 and 25. J-Term classes will be held remotely from Jan. 19 to Feb. 12, with flexibility for internships and limited on-campus research. Spring classes will run from March 1 to May 21 and will be held online for the first week, after which they will be offered either in person, remotely or through a hybrid model. 

Students received the announcement in an all-campus email on Oct. 8 from President Laurie Patton and other senior administrators. 

Although most students will take winter classes remotely, a small number of students will be approved to conduct research on campus during J-term. These students will arrive on Jan. 21 to begin their research on Feb. 1. Students will be able to complete J-Term internships either in person or remotely, and internship dates will not have to align with the altered dates of the term if students acquire prior approval. Students will have until Nov. 10 to formally declare their intentions for J-Term and the spring semester. 

Middlebury followed guidance from the state of Vermont to forgo on campus winter terms “to decrease instances of Covid-19 exposure due to travel from parts of the United States that have a higher prevalence of the virus.” 

No outline was provided regarding off-campus travel within Addison County or beyond, nor about restrictions for dining, visitors, events, gathering sizes or students living off campus. The announcement also did not mention a “phased” approach to the on-campus restrictions that have characterized life on campus this semester.

The college plans to provide an updated version of the health pledge and a Return to Campus guide for the spring semester in December. 

Like the fall 2020 semester, students will be expected to complete a two-week home quarantine before arriving on campus. Upon arrival, students will undergo Day Zero and Day Seven testing as well as a period of on-campus quarantine that will extend at least until the end of the testing and results period.

“One of biggest challenges for the coming months is the availability of indoor spaces for classrooms, dining and other activities,” the announcement read. No further detail was provided regarding these concerns, leaving unanswered questions about dining areas during mud season.

Once classes begin, they will continue through May 21. Finals week will begin on May 23 and Commencement is planned for May 30. There will be no traditional spring break or other significant time off, nor will there be a Senior Week break between the end of classes and graduation. However, the college has committed to “special activities to celebrate the Class of 2021.”

In the coming weeks, the college plans to send students a form asking them to indicate whether they plan to study in person or remotely in the spring. 

Plans for an in-person commencement for the already-graduated class of 2020 are still unknown, despite an announcement from President Patton last spring that there would eventually be an in-person event. 

In addition to committing to staff wage continuity, the college will also close for the entire week of Thanksgiving, which will add three paid holidays for eligible staff. Any hourly staff who work during Thanksgiving week because of operational needs will be compensated with “holiday premium pay.”

Middlebury is planning an Oct. 30 announcement regarding spring operations for its schools abroad. Pending travel restrictions and conditions in host countries, the college expects to be able to operate some of its 37 locations in 16 countries, with more details about specific programs expected closer to their program start dates. The college said it is hoping to host in-person summer programs such as Language Schools and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, although information is not available yet. 

The email also announced that there will be no NESCAC winter sports competition this year, as decided by the conference presidents today. The NESCAC has not yet determined what spring sports will look like, though the announcement stated that “Spring athletes should be aware that current conditions would not allow us to engage in competition.” 

The college maintains that details about on-campus life during the spring semester depend on how the pandemic develops in Vermont and elsewhere. “As always, our decisions are and will be guided by the latest scientific research and advice from federal, state, and local health officials,” the email read.