Why not start the fall quarter or semester early?

As one college and university after another announces “plans” to return to face-to-face instruction in the fall, we must remember no plan will matter if the county (or state) home to that institution can’t conduct business as usual because of coronavirus.

There’s reason for the we-will-be-open optimism because there’s some evidence — albeit not conclusive — that the summer heat might tamp down the spread of coronavirus. Let’s hope that happens because evidence also points to another wave of coronavirus hitting us in the fall.

Keep all of that in mind as you read this post, the premise of which is beginning the fall quarter or semester EARLIER THAN NORMAL might be the right decision.

What if America’s colleges and universities begin the fall term earlier in August and finish it before Thanksgiving? The University of San Diego’s president has announced his school will do that, the idea being to get the term over before the colder weather sets in.

Granted, colder weather for San Diego and colder weather for, say, Pittsburgh, isn’t comparable. However, completing the fall term before Thanksgiving takes advantage of as many warm(er) days as possible. And that might mean less disruption for everyone.

On top of that, we know deep cleaning will be part of any effort to keep a college or university open in the fall (an effort that will be expensive). Those regular deep cleans over the 10-15 weeks of the term will continue once it ends. But more such cleans could happen between the end of the November and roughly middle January than if the term ended in middle December. Those extra cleans might, and I emphasize might, be valuable when (if?) students return in January.

The optimist in me wants to believe that all colleges and universities will enjoy a “normal” fall semester. The realist in me firmly believes that won’t happen; as much as I want to be wrong, I don’t think coronavirus will be behind us, and stay so, for the fall months. But if the semester were over by the end of November, maybe, just maybe, we increase our chances for normal.

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