California State University to start spring 2021 semester online

By Mackenzie Mays 09/10/2020 08:03 PM EDT

California State University announced Thursday it will remain largely online next semester, after closing off most of its 23 campus facilities to students for the entirety of the fall semester.

The announcement: In a letter to students and staff, CSU Chancellor Timothy White called the decision to continue with primarily virtual instruction for courses beginning in January “regrettable but necessary.”

The university system will continue to provide campus housing to a limited number of students in the spring, while keeping the overwhelming majority of classrooms closed.

“While the current mitigation factors do make a difference, in the absence of a vaccine and of sufficient, cost- effective, timely testing and contact-tracing infrastructure, we are not able to return to a normal, principally in-person schedule in January 2021,” White said in the letter.

Background: White made the initial call to go virtual in May, ahead of the fall semester start in August. On Thursday, White said that early decision allowed for better planning for the online transition and that administrative factors force him to make next semester’s plans now.

Course offerings must be finalized in the coming weeks, and each campus is required to get courses authorized for distance learning.

“We know far more about it now than we did back in May. The virus continues to spread. There is no vaccine and there likely will not be one widely available any time soon,” White said in the letter. “The summer increase in infections that was forecast in the spring happened as predicted, and it was larger than expected. While cases and hospitalizations are starting to stabilize in most of California’s counties, it is plateauing at a number that is approximately 40 percent higher than what we experienced in the spring.”

White also warned of predictions of a case spike in the winter and urged the university system’s 480,000- plus students to get their flu shots by next month.

What’s next: CSU’s plan allows campuses some flexibility to make changes in the future and potentially offer more in-person coursework “should the situation in the campus’ respective region warrant that, or, conversely, to further limit such offerings as needed,” a news release said Thursday.

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