University of Montana administrators say a decision to start the fall semester sooner this year is being driven by the idea of removing some of the "complexity" of travel, keeping students and the community safe with the pandemic.
Under the schedule announced this week , the Fall semester at UM will start on Wednesday, Aug. 19, and conclude on Wednesday, Nov. 25 -- which is the day before Thanksgiving.
"But one of the key considerations was Thanksgiving break. And the importance of students being able to go home and celebrate that important holiday with their families,” University of Montana President Seth Bodnar explained. “But then the difficulties of returning to campus and ensuring the health and safety of our community after that. And so, aiming to finish by Thanksgiving so that students could go back, celebrate with their families and not have to have the complexity of coming back onto campus was an important factor in that decision."
The dates were set after the university went through an extensive review of everything from class schedules to medical information, taking into account the potential for a secondary coronavirus "spike" later this year.
"Trying to ensure that we are prepared for that, and we adapt as proactively as we can for that is a key factor in this decision,” Bodnar said.
He told MTN News that says the earlier start time marks for a busy summer for staff getting the campus ready, but Bodnar says they're up to the task.
"It means a lot of change and a lot of additional planning. But it's incredibly important and they are, they're so committed to our students' success and I'm so grateful for them."
The date changes also mean Spring semester will start sooner, with classes resuming on Jan. 11. Even with the precautions, Bodnar says the university is looking forward to a campus that's been adapted to current conditions and committed to students' success.
"We're going to be here, in person for the fall. Again, slightly early. But we're adapting to ensure the health and safety of students but to give them that quality UM education and UM experience that's so important,” Bodnar said.
UM sent out a reminder earlier this week for students to not delay getting registered for classes this fall.