HOUSTON - The first day of classes has already begun for many students but Rice University announced Thursday it will be making some changes due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Houston.
Based on a letter addressed to undergraduate students, the university said it would be shifting classes to an online format for the first two weeks of the semester and pushing the start of classes by two days - Wednesday, August 25.
"I’ll be blunt: the level of breakthrough cases (positive tests among vaccinated persons) is much higher than anticipated," Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates wrote. "And while it’s important to recognize that we can expect illness to be much milder among the fully vaccinated, it has become clear that as a campus community we need to take steps to further assess and recalibrate how we will manage this illness at Rice this year."
For students who live on campus, the university said students are asked to move in during the Sept. 4 weekend, since classes will be online until the 3rd.
"Students who live locally and are already living on campus are not required to return home, but certainly may choose to do so given the delayed start and format shifts to the first weeks of instruction," Gorman continues. "Similarly, if you live farther away and are able to delay your return to campus, we’d encourage you to do so.
"This will provide us more flexibility in assessing and arranging for housing needs for students who may need to isolate or quarantine following exposure to COVID in the coming weeks."
Those living on campus but preferring to move off-campus are also able to have certain fees waived and in some instances, be reimbursed.
"if you are currently living on campus this semester but wish to move off campus because of the complexities surrounding the COVID circumstances, Housing and Dining will waive the fees for breaking the housing contract in the following ways," Gorman said. "Students that do not move on campus at all will receive a full refund for room and board. Students that move on to campus and then decide to move off before September 3 will only be expected to provide payment for the days they lived on campus."
Admittedly, the dean says this decision was not easy but says was vital based on the current circumstances.
"I am sure that reading this, you feel a sense of disappointment that we find ourselves in this situation -- I know that I do," Gorman concluded. "But, as much as our vision for our fall start is shifting, I remain optimistic that these changes reflect a relatively short-term opportunity to pause-and-reset, rather than permanent alterations to how life on campus will be this semester."