Virginia Tech will start and finish the 2021 spring semester as originally planned, but will modify its traditional weeklong, early-March spring break to discourage travel that may increase the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 from one area to another.

“In sharing this additional information about the spring semester, we are not announcing a change in direction or plans. Rather we are applying our existing strategies to next semester,” said President Tim Sands. “The decisions we are making are based on past experiences and current information and data, but with the recognition that should circumstances change, our community will be able to adapt as needed. Our hope is that circumstances will improve and that restrictions, over time, can be eased or lifted, but that time will come only if we remain vigilant and adhere to public health guidelines.”

Virginia Tech’s next virtual town hall, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22 at 1 p.m., will focus on issues and questions related to the spring semester. Viewers may submit questions on the topic prior to the event.

Spring semester classes will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 19, and all instruction will be delivered fully online through Friday, Jan. 22. This will allow for a gradual move-in process for residential students and allow orderly surveillance of COVID-19 prevalence and targeted mitigation of health safety risks.

In-person and hybrid instruction will begin on Monday, Jan. 25 and continue through to the end of the semester in accordance with individual course plans developed by faculty. As was demonstrated during the fall semester, courses may either be fully online, hybrid, or fully-in-person as determined by each instructor. Every effort will be made to continue making progress towards a return to in-person instruction.

Spring course request will begin for students on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Campus residence halls will reopen for returning students beginning Saturday, Jan. 16. In December, Housing and Residence Life will contact all students who will live on-campus next semester with instructions to sign up for a move-in time slot. Campus dining centers will open for residential students beginning Jan. 16 at noon and will remain open through to the conclusion of final exams in May.

The university will be closed Monday, Jan. 18 in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

To provide students with downtime and stress relief during the spring semester, “spring break” will consist of five one-day breaks in which classes will not be held. These one-day breaks will have no classes, assignments, nor assessments and will begin on Friday, Feb. 5 and will continue on Thursday, Feb. 25; Wednesday, March 17; Tuesday, April 6; and Monday, April 26.

“Experience has clearly shown that a break from studies during an academic term is essential for a student’s well-being,” said Frank Shushok, vice president for student affairs. “While we want to discourage travel that could aid in the spread of COVID-19, we don’t want to eliminate much needed downtime that students seek for their overall well-being.”

Spring semester classes will end on May 5 and final exams will be held May 7-12. Final examinations may be taken online, using a hybrid format or in-person, based on current public health guidelines, depending on the availability of suitable classroom space, and in accordance with course syllabi.

The 2021 spring semester academic calendars for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the DVM students in the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine may be found online.

As students return to campus in January, they will again be asked to commit to and complete a 14-day period of self-quarantine immediately prior to their arrival for the spring semester. This practice was shown to be successful in August when students came to Blacksburg before the start of the fall semester.

Similar to the fall, all residential students will be required to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival for the spring term. The details about this process will be finalized and communicated to students by Tuesday, Dec. 1.

“As students travel back home and back to campus in between semesters, they must remain vigilant and committed to all the public health guidelines we’ve all been asked to adhere to since the pandemic began,” said Shushok. “Before they go home, and before they return to campus, all students must recommit to wear a mask at all times outside of their home or pod; to stay physically distant even as they wear their masks; to wash their hands frequently; and to make sure they have a flu shot. If they do these important things, the risk of transmitting infection to family members at home or friends or roommates here is virtually eliminated.”

All students are invited and encouraged to participate in voluntary COVID-19 testing before leaving campus for Thanksgiving. Students must reserve a test date and time no later than Oct. 26. Random prevalence testing for students and the high-contact testing program for employees will continue in Blacksburg in the spring semester beginning Monday, Jan. 25. Email notifications to the first group of test participants in 2021 is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 20.

On-campus students who have formally submitted a request to remain on campus beyond Thanksgiving break in order to complete fall coursework and exams, or whose personal or family circumstances may prevent them from returning home, are currently being notified of the status of their request.

Virginia Tech’s Global Travel Oversight Committee will allow for the possibility of study abroad activities to proceed this spring contingent upon program-specific reviews and compliance with public health and safety guidelines. Individual programs proposals will each be evaluated on its own merits, the risks inherent to the destination, and any necessary mitigation policies and protocols.

Virginia Tech announced earlier that all study abroad programs scheduled for the 2020-21 Winter Session have been canceled. All Winter Session classes will be offered only online.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Commencement Ceremony (to be held Saturday, May 8), Graduate Commencement Ceremony and Senior Day (Thursday, May 13), University Commencement ceremony (Friday, May 14), college and departmental ceremonies (May 14-15), and Northern Virginia Commencement Ceremony (Sunday, May 16) are all scheduled to be held, but the format and delivery of each ceremony will be decided at a later date.

For information on university COVID-19 pandemic updates, visit Virginia Tech’s Ready website.