Just as the fall semester has gotten underway, Rice University in Texas announced that the school will move to online instruction for at least the first two weeks of the semester.

In a letter to the Rice University community, Provost Reginald DesRoches said the change in plans is due to an increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the Houston area. Though he said the Rice community is “predominantly vaccinated,” DesRoches said the school is concerned over the rising number of breakthrough cases among the vaccinated.

“Much remains to be learned about the delta variant and we need to pay close attention to the current surge that is especially pronounced in Texas. We need time to test and assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in the Rice community and its related health outcomes, and to implement any appropriate risk mitigation actions, keeping in mind the effectiveness of vaccination in preventing serious illness,” he wrote.

“For these reasons, we will move to online instruction for at least the first two weeks of the semester,” he said. “In order to provide additional time to prepare for this change, classes will begin Wednesday, Aug. 25, and instruction will be online through Friday, Sept. 3. By that time, we will have reassessed our instruction and other mitigation policies.”

Despite the move to online learning, DesRoches said Rice intends to return to fully in-person instruction this semester.

Delving into the specifics, DesRoches said that instructors can choose to teach in either synchronous or asynchronous mode. Additionally, the school is allowing instructors to go on campus and utilize their office or classroom to facilitate remote instruction. Even though classroom instruction is moving online, Rice professors are allowed to host in-person office hours, as long as they keep in mind the requirement of masking indoors. Courses, such as graduate research, that can be conducted with masking and appropriate physical distancing will remain in person, DesRoches explained.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs