Spring Operations Update

Tulips blooming in front of the Old Well.
Scenes from the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on March 25, 2020. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Dear Carolina Community,

We hope you had a good winter break and were able to find opportunities to rest after a challenging year. As we start the new year, we know many of those challenges remain, but we are focused on the best ways we can support the important work ahead of us to continue teaching, learning and conducting ground-breaking research at Carolina while keeping your health and safety a priority.

When we shared our plans for the spring semester, we promised to let you know by Jan. 9 if we would update those plans. With record COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in North Carolina and around the country, we are making the following adjustments to our spring semester to provide as much flexibility as possible for a safe return to campus.

  • Classes will begin on Jan. 19, as planned. However, we are delaying the start of in-person undergraduate classes for three weeks. Those classes instead will be held remotely, with the current plan to start in-person classes on Feb. 8. Note that the semester start dates for graduate and professional programs may vary, and all programs have the option of starting remotely. Your school will confirm your start date and the mode of instruction for your courses.
  • We will welcome students back to our campus residence halls beginning Jan. 13 as planned, but students will have the option to return or delay their move-in date up until Feb. 7.

We are making these changes with the health of our campus and the community in mind. We have carefully analyzed the data and consulted with our campus infectious disease experts, the chair of the faculty, the chair of the Employee Forum, the student body president, UNC Health, county health officials and the UNC System to inform these decisions. We have also heard from students and parents and want to offer them maximum flexibility as we head into the spring semester under the current circumstances. As a reminder, the University is implementing a rigorous testing program, and we will be successful only if students adhere to the COVID-19 Community Standards and get tested.

Here are additional details:

Academics and Instruction 

There is no change in the academic calendar. Based on our experience in the fall, we know we can teach small, in-person classes safely and successfully as we did with in-person graduate and professional health sciences classes.

Grading accommodations from fall 2020 will be extended for the spring 2021 semester.

Undergraduate students: Classes that were scheduled to meet in-person will meet remotely until Feb. 8. Classes that were already scheduled to meet remotely will continue in that mode of instruction.

Graduate and professional students: Please note that the semester start dates for graduate and professional programs may vary, and all programs have the option of starting remotely. Your school will confirm your start date and the mode of instruction for your courses.

Faculty and staff: Faculty impacted by the change to in-person instruction should plan to return to campus on Feb. 8. As we are ramping up our campus operations, all other faculty and staff should work with their department heads and supervisors to clarify their work locations and schedules.

On-Campus Housing  

Residence halls will open on Jan. 13 as previously announced, and students may move into their single-occupancy room on their scheduled date or choose to postpone their arrival on campus up until Feb. 7. Carolina Housing will follow up with students with additional information about confirming or modifying their move-in date. Housing fees will be prorated according to when students choose to move in.

While only a fraction of our typical residential population will live on campus this spring, we want to provide them with the safest environment possible during the current COVID-19 surge. Some of our residential students have told us they want and need access to campus services, and we want to provide them with the academic support services and greater testing and health care services that many cannot access at home. Those services will be open and available to our students. We also want to offer additional flexibility for those who wish to remain in their home communities for a few more weeks to do so.

It is important to reiterate, we have put numerous procedures in place to better position us for success, including a robust re-entry and ongoing asymptomatic testing program, increased quarantine and isolation space and a required commitment to follow our COVID-19 Community Standards. The mandatory asymptomatic testing and adherence to our COVID-19 Community Standards are critical for a successful spring semester, and we are counting on our students to meet these expectations and be responsible members of our campus community.

We have established the Carolina Together Testing Program, a vigorous testing protocol for all students on and off-campus in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro communities. Testing will make a significant difference in our ability to allow students to live and learn on campus this spring by identifying cases and trends earlier. We also know that a reality with COVID-19 is there will be positive test results that will require contract tracing and isolation and quarantine. The Carolina Together Testing Program is one important part of a comprehensive approach to managing our campus and community impact, but it will also make our community a safer place for our students, faculty, staff and neighbors.  Early next week all members of our campus community will receive information regarding Hall Pass, a web-based application that will administer our testing and contact tracing program throughout the semester.

If you have recently tested positive (any time after Jan. 1), please follow the guidance from your local county health department for isolation and quarantine requirements. Students should also notify Campus Health and faculty and staff should notify the Employee Occupational Health Clinic.

Every decision we make is with our community’s health and safety in mind and in consultation with our infectious disease experts, the Orange County Health Department, state and local officials, student, faculty, and staff leaders, our broader campus community and the UNC System. Please stay safe and well, and we look forward to seeing you soon.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz

Robert A. Blouin
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost