Schools wrestle with Coronavirus impact on fall schedule

As states relax their restrictions imposed in March because of the Coronavirus outbreak, schools at all levels are now trying to figure out the best road ahead in the fall, with deep uncertainty about how the virus outbreak will impact kids from pre-school to college.

In recent days, two major universities have announced they would scrap a standard fall break for students, worried the travel from school to home - and then back to school - could further spread the virus.

"Two major changes will stand out as you review the following schedule," wrote University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen. "First, there will be no Fall Break and second, we will conclude face-to-face instruction at Thanksgiving Break."

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At the University of Notre Dame, classes will start on August 10, two weeks earlier than normal, with no fall break in October, and an end to classes by Thanksgiving.

"Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed," said Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's President.

At Purdue University, the school calendar is being compressed as well, with no day off for Labor Day, and an end to classes by late November.

"Please note that the campus will not close after Thanksgiving break, the residence halls will be open, etc. — we simply will not have face-to-face instruction after Thanksgiving," wrote Purdue Provost Jay Akridge.

At this point, most colleges have not spelled out the details of their plans for the fall, for example the University of Florida will have task forces report back on various options by June 1.

While the schedules for colleges and universities might have a higher profile, there are also many parents wondering whether their kids will have regular instruction in elementary, middle, and high schools nationwide.

"We can't count on a vaccine or a dramatic treatment success," said former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. "Schools are important. Keeping them closed will cause health, educational, economic, and societal harms."

Some jurisdictions have already floated the idea of having more in-person teaching for elementary school students, while junior and senior high schools would focus more energy on online learning.

But much of that is still to be determined by hundreds of school districts around the country.

When it comes to colleges, one unknown is whether there will be sports this fall - especially football.

Back in 1918, both World War I and the flu outbreak in the United States caused havoc with the college football schedule.

For example, the University of Nebraska and Notre Dame had to set three different dates for a football clash, before finally holding their game late in November of 1918.