SAULT STE. MARIE — Lake Superior State University students and staff are slated to start instruction early this upcoming fall semester along with additional changes in the spring semester due the coronavirus.


Announced Thursday afternoon, the university said it will be starting two weeks earlier instead of its original school year kickoff date, which was Aug. 24. Alternatively, instruction will commence on Monday, Aug. 10 and the semester will conclude before Thanksgiving. According to a press release from Lake State, as the school’s administration analyzed plans for face-to-face instruction for the fall semester, it became apparent that many of the safety considerations and protocols under consideration can be greatly enhanced if the university enables students to travel to campus early and complete the semester by Thanksgiving.


At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, President Rodney Hanley appointed his leadership team with evaluating all options and taking the necessary steps to ensure the most responsible and full-fledged campus operations that can be delivered safely given environmental constraints. Provost, Lynn Gillette, began working with administrators and faculty to develop plans for safe operations. These discussions included planning of fall course delivery, academic support, residence life, dining and all university activities.


“Paramount in university planning is the overriding principle that students, faculty, and staff feel safe and secure in the environment,” said President Hanley. “We will do everything possible to protect our students, their families, and the university community in our endeavor to deliver a meaningful fall campus experience.”


Leveraging best practice risk mitigation strategies, the team made recommendations regarding health screenings, social distancing, sanitization and disinfecting, masking, classroom spacing, facilities as well as residence life and dining enhancements. Without the traditional holiday break, students’ studies can continue unabated for the fall semester without the need to travel in the beginning of cold and flu season.


Lake State has also made the decision to start the spring semester later than usual to enable students to be home for a more significant time before traveling and shifting spring break so that the university would remain in continuous operation for the term and minimize the risk associated with spring travel. Current plans project starting Spring 2021 semester Jan. 19 and concluding the term April 30.


The press release added while the situation may seem fluid, the intimate nature of Lake State and the creativity and commitment of the faculty and staff enable the flexibility to deliver a supportive and healthy learning environment. Campus administration will continually monitor environmental conditions and is committed to investing in the student experience and delivering the high quality instruction we are known for while keeping all of our constituents safe and secure.


Hanley said, “We understand conditions may change, however, we have engaged in thoughtful and robust preparation and planning that we believe will make for the safest environment for our students.”