Delayed Start of Winter Quarter

December 23, 2021

To: Members of the University Community
From Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost and Katie Callow-Wright, Executive Vice President of the University and Chief of Staff in the Office of the President
Subject: Delayed Start of Winter Quarter
Date: December 23, 2021

In recent days the rapid spread of COVID-19, due in part to the Omicron variant, has surpassed previous projections both locally and nationally. We continue to closely monitor developments to help ensure we maximize in-person instruction while upholding the health and safety of our community and managing the challenges of the COVID-19 surge. Thank you for continuing to be flexible as this situation evolves, and for your commitment to the UChicago community.

Based on assessments from medical experts that infection rates from the Omicron variant will continue to rise substantially in the next few weeks with the projected infection peak coming in early to mid-January, and increased stress on the medical system along with elevated pressure on the University’s contact tracing program, testing, isolation housing, and overall staffing due to likely high case counts among employees, the University is delaying the start of Winter Quarter for most schools and divisions by one week—to January 10, 2022. Additionally, the University is moving to a remote-only instructional format for the first two weeks of the quarter. We anticipate a return to in-person instruction in Week 3 of Winter Quarter, beginning on January 24.

Undergraduates living in residence halls are strongly encouraged to delay their return to campus until at least January 20. More information for students living in College housing will be sent later today.

Delaying the start of the quarter and moving to remote-only instruction for two weeks should allow us to get past the peak of Omicron infections, help reduce case counts in the on-campus populations (especially in residence halls), conserve medical resources in our community, and reduce disruptions to instruction. In addition, the delay in starting will provide University instructors sufficient time to transition to remote learning.

This change also should make it easier for those who test positive during this peak period to stay home. The University’s continuing goal is to promote the health of our community, neighbors, and visitors while also delivering on our distinctive approach to education, research, and intellectual life.

We encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 booster shot as soon as possible. To align the University’s new COVID-19 booster requirement with the return to in-person classes, we are shifting the deadline to January 24, 2022 for students to submit proof of receiving a COVID-19 booster shot unless they have an approved exemption. The booster requirement deadline for University employees will remain January 31. The University will follow up in the coming days with instructions for complying with this requirement. Individuals who are not yet eligible for a booster must receive one within 30 days of becoming eligible. COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots are readily available in the U.S. from pharmacies and other local providers, and it is often easiest to schedule a booster appointment there. You can find a nearby vaccine site by visiting vaccines.gov.

Please note:

  • Research is not ramping down campus-wide, and will continue in-person under the direction of departmental leaders.
  • The Library will continue to provide regular services, though with potentially reduced hours or slowed turnaround times in the event of staffing issues.
  • Many offices will continue in-person activities during this period. Individual units will determine changes regarding in-person work and employees should bring inquiries or requests to supervisors.
  • We ask that residential students delay their return to their residence halls until shortly before the resumption of in-person instruction. Residential students who need to return to campus before January 20 will have an opportunity to submit a request to Housing and Residence Life. Further details on this process will be sent to all residential students separately. Information about any adjustments to room and board charges will also be provided in this follow-up communication.
  • Winter Quarter will now end on Saturday, March 19, and Spring Break will be the week of March 21 rather than that of March 14. Spring Quarter for most schools and divisions will begin on Monday, March 28. The length of Winter Quarter and Spring Quarter will not be reduced.
  • The Law School will begin Winter Quarter on Monday, January 3, in remote format, and will begin Spring Quarter on Monday, March 21, to ensure adherence to accreditation guidelines. In addition, there may be special requirements for medical students particularly in their clinical rotations that may fall outside of the current guidance. The Executive MBA program at the Booth School of Business will hold classes remotely on January 7, 8, 21, and 22.
  • In-person gatherings of students and employees, both on and off campus, should be limited to essential, non-social convenings of smaller groups over short durations through at least January 24 and potentially beyond. Non-curricular conferences, performances and exhibits may proceed under reduced capacity and strict masking protocols.
  • Although the University’s travel policy is not changing, we strongly advise against scheduling any non-essential travel during this period.
  • Testing capacity at the Medical Center and other locations is limited due to high demand and reduced staffing capacity.  The University’s COVID-19 testing program is being temporarily expanded starting next week to allow for testing of symptomatic individuals. To schedule a test, please visit the UChicago COVID-19 Testing program website.  Please keep in mind that this is a saliva-based test. Eating, drinking, or smoking is not permitted an hour before your test.

We have far more tools for mitigating the impact of COVID-19 than when the pandemic began. Although we are taking these temporary measures as a precaution, the University greatly values in-person instruction, and we are committed to returning to it as soon as conditions allow. We want to acknowledge that there will still be high numbers of positive cases of COVID-19 among our students and employees once we resume in person on January 24, and ongoing interventions and adaptions may be required.  We also know that our community has demonstrated strength and a commitment to our core mission through the pandemic and expect that we will continue to do so despite these challenges.

We will continue to monitor the evolution of the pandemic in the coming weeks, and will provide additional updates early in January. Thank you for your commitment to the health of our community.