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Saturday, Dec 9, 2023

College delays start of J-Term in response to Omicron surge

The college has decided to delay the start of J-Term to Jan.10, per an email to the Middlebury community sent on Dec. 22. The term will also end a day later, on Feb. 3, making the term four days shorter than originally planned. Many other adjustments, including initial grab-and-go dining, twice-weekly mandated testing and possibly restrictions on gathering sizes and travel outside of Addison County will accompany this change.

In the email, the college stated that the delayed start was intended to give staff and faculty adequate time to prepare due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

Students are allowed to arrive on January 8 or 9, and must also present a negative Covid-19 PCR/NAAT taken within three days of their arrival on campus.This is a change from the previous requirement, which required a test within five days of arrival. A Dec. 23 email from Dean of Students Derek Doucet clarified that when students arrive on campus they should go directly to the Virtue Fieldhouse testing center, a procedure that students followed in the fall 2020 and spring 2020 semesters but that did not occur in fall 2021.

Classes will be online for at least the first two days of J-Term, with most classes expected to shift to in-person format as students receive their results from arrival testing.

The college is also mandating twice-weekly testing during at least the first two weeks of classes, with the possibility of mandated testing to continue throughout winter term. This is in addition to testing required upon arrival and between five and seven days after arrival.

The email also noted other expected changes to health and safety expectations, including restrictions on gathering sizes and travel outside of Addison County.

“Students who have plans for travel, internships outside of the county, or other commitments that could be restricted by limitations defined by the campus status webpage should consider forgoing winter term,” the email said.

The email also acknowledged that the delayed start date will disrupt travel plans, and said that students designated as high need by Student Financial Services would receive a separate message about financial assistance for travel costs.

In a separate announcement on Dec. 22, the NESCAC stated that all spectators at indoor athletic events must be part of the host institution’s testing protocols, excluding most family members and students from visiting teams from attending.

The college stated that they expect a high number of positive yet mild cases on campus, making it possible that they will be unable to accommodate students who test positive in isolation housing provided by the college. As a result of this, the college stated that students may be asked to travel off-campus or isolate within their dorm rooms, if they are able to do so.

“We require that any student who tests positive and is able to safely complete their isolation period off campus do so. In addition, students who are able to isolate in their rooms may be asked to do so if the number of low-risk students who test positive exceeds isolation housing capacity,” the email said.

Students were also strongly encouraged to schedule an appointment for their Covid-19 booster shot as soon as possible. Those who cannot schedule an appointment before arriving on campus must schedule one upon arrival in Vermont for winter term. Students not eligible for the booster yet are expected to schedule an appointment within two weeks of eligibility.

The announcement also included advice for higher risk students.

“Unvaccinated and/or immunocompromised students should consult with their medical provider and think carefully about whether the campus living environment is appropriate at this time,” the email said.

Managing Editor Abigail Chang and Editor in Chief Riley Board contributed reporting.

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Lucy Townend

Lucy Townend '22 is a Managing Editor alongside Abigail Chang.

She previously served as a senior section editor, a local editor, and a copy editor.

Townend is majoring in International Politics and Economics, studying  French throughout her years at Middlebury and is planning on completing  a thesis focused on income inequality and regime change.

This previous summer, Townend interned as a private banking analyst  at a mid-sized bank in Chicago and plans to continue her work there  after graduation.