Classes at Stanford University will move online for the first two weeks after winter break and students will be required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot by the end of January, the university announced Thursday, Dec. 16.
Winter quarter, which begins on Jan. 3 for most students, will be conducted remotely until after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. Face-to-face classes are scheduled to resume on Tuesday, Jan. 18. Although lessons will be online for the first two weeks, students are still able and encouraged to return to their on-campus housing during that period.
The move comes in response to concerns over the transmissibility of the omicron variant of COVID-19, Provost Persis Drell and Associate Vice Provost of Environmental Health and Safety Russell Furr wrote in a public letter.
The issue isn't with classrooms themselves being unsafe, Drell and Furr said, but rather with logistical hurdles around students who contract the virus over the holidays participating in lessons.
Students who test positive during the break will be delayed in traveling back to campus and others who test positive upon arrival will need to isolate for 10 days.
"We anticipate this two-week period of online instruction will allow students to settle in, get booster doses and navigate any health issues without the concern of missing the beginning of classes," Drell and Furr wrote.
During that time, students are encouraged to come back to campus, so they have time to isolate, if needed, before classes start. The university is asking students to take a COVID-19 test before traveling back to Stanford and rapid tests will also be available for all students upon their return. Students are being asked to take two tests during their first week back and rules are in place to limit student gatherings during the first two weeks of the quarter.
The university is also requiring students to provide proof that they have received a booster dose by Jan. 31, unless they have a religious or medical exemption.
COVID-19 outbreaks have cropped up on college campuses throughout the country in recent days. Cornell University shut down its New York campus this week after over seeing over 900 COVID-19 cases in students between Dec. 7-13.
Stanford students are already on winter break and the university said its decision to move January classes temporarily online was not taken due to an existing increase in COVID-19 cases.
In the two weeks after Thanksgiving break, Stanford did see "slightly elevated numbers of COVID-19 cases," Drell and Furr said. The university recorded 27 student cases the week of Dec. 6 and 30 the week before that.
Other university operations are slated to continue as planned in the new year, with employees being instructed to return as expected after the winter closure.
"We believe it is prudent to make this adjustment now — and give instructors more time to plan for the first two weeks of online instruction — rather than making a shift during the university's winter close or just after returning to campus," Drell and Furr wrote.