MSU Campus

Campus is quiet as the school year comes to a close Monday, May 4, 2020, at Montana State University in Bozeman.

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Montana State University’s fall semester will begin two weeks earlier than normal and end before Thanksgiving in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to an email President Waded Cruzado sent on Friday.

Classes will begin Monday, Aug. 17. Final exams — and the last day of the semester — will end Wednesday, Nov. 25.

The spring semester is set to begin Jan. 11 and run until May 10.

The prolonged winter break could enable MSU to offer a winter session — MSU Snow-mester — with some online courses. Cruzado said she would release more information on the session in the coming weeks.

The new schedule limits the need for students, faculty and staff to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday and then return to campus, which could facilitate the spread of COVID-19, Cruzado said. The new schedule also reduces the possibility of having the flu and COVID-19 circulating on campus simultaneously.

Cruzado said the decision comes after consultation with public health experts, university leadership, the Bozeman School District, the Gallatin City-County Health Department and students, who have indicated they prefer in-person classes to online instruction.

“With the COVID-19 situation, we have learned to choose not between a good and a bad option, but rather between options that will afford the best long-term benefits for the largest number of people in our communities,” she wrote in the email.

The announcement followed guidance that the Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian released earlier in the week.

MSU is now working on what the fall semester will look like. Although students will be able to return to campus, there will be more online and blended offerings.

MSU is developing testing, screening and cleaning protocols to keep the virus at bay. The university will also be prepared to halt in-person classes and return to online-only if necessary.

Provost Robert Mokwa said in an email to faculty members that they will receive some training throughout the summer on online and blended teaching and will be given guidance on social distancing and cleaning protocols.

Summer classes begin next week. Most will be finished by Aug. 7, but a few will continue until Aug. 28, overlapping with the beginning of the fall semester, said MSU spokesperson Michael Becker.

The first summer session will be offered online. There will be limited in-person courses as part of the later summer sessions that begin June 15 and June 29.

“In addition to the regular benefits of the summer schedule, having an opportunity to offer courses in-person ahead of the start of the fall semester will yield valuable lessons that can be applied for the fall semester,” Becker said.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.