Texas A&M University-San Antonio has extended winter break with spring 2021 classes beginning Jan. 19, in exchange sacrificing spring break mid-semester.
The decision was made to allow extra time for COVID-19 testing and quarantining after individuals may return from travel during winter break. This also eliminates the need for a break mid-semester, prevents any disruptions to learning and maintains the health and safety of the campus community, Dr. Mari Fuentes-Martin, vice president of student success and engagement, wrote in a Dec. 10 email to students announcing the changes.
Mike O’Brien, university provost said the semester officially begins on Jan. 11; however a winter break will immediately take place through Jan. 15. Classes will resume on Jan. 19 in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 18.
The coronavirus forced the university to transition to fully online learning after spring break 2020, and officials wanted to prevent that from recurring this spring, O’Brien said.
O’Brien said the university consulted the Faculty Senate, Staff Council and the Student Government Association about the decision. Faculty and staff with children were also taken into consideration because many school district schedules do not align together.
“There were so many people that would be affected, we wanted to hear from everybody,” O’Brien said in a phone interview Dec. 14.
O’Brien and President Cynthia Teniente-Matson signed off on the decision to extend the winter break.
The extended winter break is the only change made to the academic calendar. Other dates such as the Census Date will remain the same because it must be kept on the 12th day of the semester, Jan. 27. O’Brien said this will give students less time to decide if they want to remain in the class.
However, O’Brien said the break will positively impact department heads and professors because it will give them more time to prepare their course shelves on Blackboard for online classes and to prepare for classes.
O’Brien said the university also considered the mental health and well-being of everyone on campus. Staff will still be able to schedule their allotted two-day break through their supervisor.
“This has been a rough semester, rough year on everyone,” O’Brien said in a phone interview Dec. 14.
He said the break will give students more time to prepare for the semester and if they experience any issues, he recommends that students use the Student Counseling Center.
Allyssa Atkinson, SGA president, said she believes the decision was needed for the well-being of everyone.
“This extended break that has been put in place will allow our campus community to self-isolate if needed and will hopefully allow us to break in the semester in a more effective and safe way than we did in the previous semester,” Atkinson said in a Dec. 18 email to The Mesquite.
Brigid Cooley contributed to this story.