Announcing a “Circuit Breaker” for the Opening Weeks of Fall Quarter 2

Dear Students, Parents, Faculty, and Staff,

I am writing today to announce a change in plans for the beginning of Fall Quarter 2. Fall Quarter 2 will now begin with a period of online instruction with an at-home residency option (November 30-December 22), followed by a period of in-person instruction with full on-campus residency (January 4-January 28).

Our revised 2020-21 academic calendar anticipated the possibility of an additional wave of the pandemic in the fall and/or winter. This additional wave is now occurring. Just this weekend, the United States reported new daily records for cases of COVID-19, and the number of students at Luther College in isolation and quarantine significantly increased. Yesterday, Governor Reynolds issued a proclamation that extended the Public Health Disaster Emergency in Iowa and introduced additional measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The good news is that the modular nature of our fall semester allows us to respond to this wave. Because of the two fall quarters, students will be taking at most two courses online during this temporary shift to online learning (unlike the shift that happened during the spring 2020 semester). The temporary shift to online learning will reduce in-person interactions, reducing the chances of spreading COVID-19 on campus.

Why are we announcing this decision today, rather than on November 16 (as previously indicated)?

  • We understand that this is a big shift that will raise a lot of questions. We wanted to give everyone time to make plans, adjust, and get answers to their questions.
  • The conditions of the pandemic in both the region and the nation are projected to worsen rather than improve over the next seven weeks. We wanted to be proactive and make this decision while we are at Alert Level 2: Teal (where classes are in-person), rather than making this move when conditions might have forced us to quickly transition to Alert Level 3: Yellow (where classes are temporarily shifted online).
  • The two scheduled breaks over the next seven weeks also contributed to our decision-making process and allowed for a natural "circuit-breaker." We hope this decision will reduce travel to and from campus, which will also mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19.

The online learning period will occur during the beginning of Fall Quarter 2: from Monday, November 30, through Tuesday, December 22. Below are the details about this online learning period.

  • Course formats: All classes will be conducted in an online format.
  • At-home residency option: Students may choose to take classes at home. Hall Directors will send an email to students later this week. The email will contain a form asking students about their residency plans during this period, as well an application for those students requesting housing over Winter Break (December 23-January 3). We also ask that students who change their Thanksgiving Break plans based on this announcement notify their Hall Director. Note that students who choose this option will not receive a refund for room and board charges. Adjustments to room and board charges will occur if Luther College requires students to leave campus and will be guided by the policy pertaining to COVID-19 Room and Board Credits.
  • On-campus residency: The Visitor/Guest Policy for the Residence Halls will remain at Phase 1.
  • On-campus facilities: The hours of operations for Dining Services, Preus Library, and the Regents Center may be adjusted, depending upon the number of students on campus. Academic and administrative buildings will continue to be open to students living on campus.
  • Peer tutoring: Peer tutoring will continue to be available. The Center for Academic Enrichment will send details about adjusted hours or methods of delivery.
  • Athletics: Activities for athletic teams will be made on a case-by-case basis by the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. There will be no competitions for any athletic team during the month of December.
  • Student work: Students who choose to remain on campus will be allowed to continue to work. In most cases, students who choose to live at home between November 22-December 30 will not be approved to work remotely. Please contact the Student Employment Office (563-387-1072; [email protected]) with work-study questions and concerns.
  • Course changes: Students who received federal financial aid should contact the Financial Aid Office (563-387-1018; [email protected]) prior to making any changes to their courses for Fall Quarter 2.

I know that you may have a number of questions and concerns. Administrative offices on campus are prepared to work with you on an individual basis. A full listing of contact information for administrative offices may be found on this website. The contact information for several offices are listed below.

Book Shop: 563-387-1036; [email protected]u
Center for Academic Enrichment: 563-387-1270; [email protected]
Dean’s Office: 563-387-1005; [email protected]
Financial Aid: 563-387-1018; [email protected]
Financial Services: 563-387-1015; [email protected]
Health Service: 563-387-1045
Registrar’s Office: 563-387-1167; [email protected]
Residence Life: 563-387-1330; [email protected]
Student Life: 563-387-1020; [email protected]

Following the Holiday Break (December 23-January 3), we are now planning that classes will resume in an in-person format, starting on Monday, January 4. However, the trajectory of the pandemic in Winneshiek County and broadly within the region and nation may force us to change our plans. Any changes to the plan will be announced by Monday, December 21. When in-person classes resume, students are expected to return to campus unless they have a documented medical condition.

Luther Norse, I spent some time yesterday in a roundtable with other presidents at institutions like ours. With almost no exceptions, my colleagues noted managing COVID-19 also means being attentive to unusually high levels of stress and anxiety on campus. Compared to many of our peer colleges, Luther has had low numbers of positive COVID-19 cases; nevertheless, the last couple of weeks of FQ1 have been just as challenging for us, given the enduring uncertainty of when we will be on the other side of this pandemic and the fatigue that comes from slogging through it with each other.

I wish I could assure you that there will be no more "decision pivots" from here on out, but I have promised you from the beginning that we will aim for flexibility and adaptation in light of prevailing conditions. Come what may, I want you to know that I am aware of the inconvenience, workload, and emotional whiplash that comes with this kind of flexibility, as we attempt to fulfill the mission of our residential college in a time of great challenge. If we have to slog, I am grateful that we are doing it together.

Soli Deo Gloria.


President Jenifer K. Ward