Westminster College announced an altered Spring 2021 schedule Monday, implementing a later start date and shortening Spring break to just two days. However, students expressed concerns about the lack of a full break and its effects on their mental health.
Michael Santarosa, registrar at Westminster, said the school changed the schedule to discourage students from traveling and to promote a safe return to campus in January.
Before the decision was made, Santarosa said a survey was sent to students Sept. 23 asking their stance on eliminating spring break.
“We had survey responses from 389 undergraduate students and 94 graduate students,” Santarosa said. “Two-thirds of respondents supported eliminating spring break altogether.”
Under the new schedule, students will return to campus between Jan. 11-13. Classes will begin Thursday, Jan. 14 — with the first round of Monday classes pushed ahead to Friday, Jan. 15 to make up for the Martin Luther King holiday.
Additionally, spring break has been cut to two days March 11-12.
Students express frustrations, citing mental health concerns
Marissa Martinez, a junior nursing major, said she’s frustrated because she’s not sure how the shortened break will prevent the spread of COVID-19 — arguing students are still traveling despite online classes.
“I’m indifferent because I get both sides of it,” Martinez said. “But it’s frustrating to not have a good break from school [especially] when it’s college, it’s hard, it’s tough.”
Martinez said it also felt unfair to her friends who are from out-of-state, as the shortened break may keep students from going home.
“It won’t affect me a lot, but I know it will affect my friends who aren’t from Salt Lake and want to spend time in their hometowns visiting their families and friends,” Martinez said.
Some students expressed frustration, noting they were unaware of the decision being made.
Audrey Green, a senior accounting major, said that she didn’t see the initial email survey sent to students asking for feedback. Instead, she said she saw the news from a post on Westminster’s Instagram page Monday.
“Even though it seems too early to make the call about spring break five months from now, it makes sense to shorten the amount of time for students to be away from campus and to limit the opportunities where students could be exposed to COVID-19,” Green said.
Although it’s slightly disappointing, Green said she appreciated the scheduled two-day break — rather than canceling it altogether.
“I would view that decision as completely unnecessary this early in the school year,” she said. “Westminster has done a fine job with in-person learning this semester, and I don’t see why it can’t continue that way in the spring as long as students continue to follow all the guidelines in place.”
Overall, Green said she encourages students to “stay smart” and avoid situations that would contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.
“I would hate to lose the rest of my senior year because students weren’t practicing social distancing and not wearing masks,” Green said.
Students say they support decision, despite disappointments
Abby Keeley, a junior public health and pre-med major, reported she did take the survey.
“From a public health perspective I can understand why they chose to limit our time for spring break,” Keeley said. “It will ideally deter students from traveling, especially to super crowded areas where risk of transmission is higher.”
But Keeley said her inner-college student was disappointed she wouldn’t get the whole week off.
“Spring break is such a fun thing to look forward to,” she said. “Especially with how crazy and stressful this year has been in general.”
Keeley said that she thinks it would be nice if students had the weeklong spring break, with classes continuing virtually afterward — similar to the Fall semester.
“If we were to have a break I think it would be a light for students to look forward to and take a breath from the tough year in general,” Keeley said. “If the school were to keep the break normal and then impose a 14-day quarantine on the whole campus, it would prevent transmission and also allow us to have a break.”
Keeley said that she wouldn’t be opposed to complete remote learning after spring break like the previous Spring semester.
“As much as it sucked last year, we have adjusted for the most part now and would have time to prepare for it,” Keeley said.
Athletes look ahead to Spring season
As for athletics, Keeley — a Westminster volleyball player — said she faces another issue.
All Fall sports — with the exception of golf and cross country — had their seasons postponed to the Spring semester. But things could change depending on how COVID-19 progresses.
“This schedule change won’t really have an impact on our season, but we may be restricted from traveling,” Keeley said.
In the meantime, Keeley said she wants to encourage students to continue wearing masks and social distancing. Although it can be difficult, she said it’s important to continue progressing.
“Each day feels like a rollercoaster and it is good to be open and talk about it,” Keeley said. “The best way to get through this time is to do it together.”