UNK calendar: Aug. 24 start, adjustments and flexibility for remainder of semester

Following Thanksgiving break, there will be flexibility in scheduling the remaining three weeks of the semester, including study time and finals – remote or in-person

KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney plans to begin its fall academic calendar on Aug. 24 as originally planned and will make adjustments to the schedule to enhance safety and maintain flexibility in response to COVID-19.

The University of Nebraska Provost, following procedures outlined by university policy, convened the academic calendar committee. The NU campuses each reviewed options and submitted recommendations on adjusted academic schedules. Each campus has an approach that is slightly different, as approved by the provost and president.

Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Charlie Bicak and Chancellor Doug Kristensen shared the updated UNK calendar today.

The academic schedule will include:

  • First day of fall semester classes will be Aug. 24
  • Classes will be held on Labor Day (Sept. 7)
  • A traditional “fall break” will be observed (Oct. 19-20)
  • A traditional Thanksgiving break will occur (Nov. 25-28 on the academic calendar)
  • Following Thanksgiving break, there will be flexibility in scheduling the remaining three weeks of the semester, including study time and finals – remote or in-person
  • Commencement will remain scheduled on Dec. 18 if health conditions allow

Preparations are being made to accommodate faculty and students with protections for those who cannot attend class in-person.

The announcement follows weeks of conversations and research on expert health recommendations, with broad input and dialogue among faculty, staff and students across campus, Bicak said. Some universities have announced plans to start the fall semester early, and others to move their instruction entirely remotely. Bicak and Kristensen said UNK will continue to focus on what is best for students, which is the residential experience. However, the flexibility is essential to balance what is best for the entire community, based on safety.

“In our conversations and driving our decision-making is UNK’s student-focused approach,” Bicak said. “It’s helpful for students to have an academic calendar that is as predictable as we can design at this time. The added flexibility is student-driven, while paying close attention to the consideration and flexible capability of the faculty to protect their own health while making their decisions about how to deliver the best instruction.”

Bicak said a campus wide reopening task force has drafted recommendations for considering adjustments on health protection measures; policies; education and communication; classrooms, labs, studios and library; facilities, residence halls and the student union; athletics and intramurals; and experiential learning (internships, student research, performances and creative activities).

UNK faculty and staff have participated in committee discussions and surveys and sought student input to work to adjust operations and practices to safely open campus this fall. Bicak said it’s important that the discussions continue through summer as the community continues to observe local directed health measures, and the transient nature of the virus. Some approaches and details for fall are unknown, while contingencies continue to be planned.

For example, students arriving from COVID-19 “hot spots” may need to be quarantined before attending classes and events, and, student/staff/faculty travel may need to continue to be reported for self-quarantine.

All these considerations helped arrive at the approach to the fall 2020 academic calendar, Bicak said. Final adjustments, such as on “Dead Week” and finals, will be made closer to these dates and after input from faculty and students.

Chancellor Doug Kristensen said health and safety continues to be the first priority in approaching all adjustments and responses to the challenges from the pandemic.

“These are unprecedented times that call for caution and patience in our approach, while continuing to advance our mission,” Kristensen said. “The UNK way is to work as a team and focus on our students and the quality academic experience here to help guide these decisions.”