All Updates

Our plan for the spring semester

Dear Washington University community,

As we approach the final weeks of the fall semester, it is now time to turn our attention to spring, and what the next semester will look like at Washington University. Throughout the fall, we have taken a cautious approach and limited in-person activities significantly in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on campus. This has been especially true in recent days, as we have had to make significant changes to our plans for Thanksgiving Break and the remainder of the fall semester. 

The health and safety of our community is our highest priority in every decision we make. Although our current trends in the region and on campus are certainly of concern, we also should remember that throughout the fall semester we have been largely successful in containing the spread of COVID-19 on our campus. Based on what we have learned about how to keep our community healthy, we plan to take a similarly cautious approach to our plans for spring.

You can read the full plan for the spring semester on the WashU Together website. Some important points to highlight are:

Academic calendar

The spring semester will begin on January 19 for Brown School and Law School students and on January 26 for Arts & Sciences, McKelvey School of Engineering, Olin Business School, Sam Fox School and University College. The full 2020-21 academic calendar is available online.

Delivery of instruction

Similarly to fall, we will deliver academic coursework through a variety of formats. Some courses will again be offered either primarily online or in person, and others in a hybrid format, with instruction available both in the classroom and remotely so students can choose how to attend. Course details, including delivery format, are available in the Course Listings catalog

Residential Life housing

Students living in Residential Life housing will remain in single bedrooms. We will not be assigning new students into existing double or triple rooms that are occupied by one person currently. Students who need to cancel their housing contract or who would like to sign up for spring housing, can do so through the Housing Portal, which students can access through WebSTAC.  Information about housing for fall 2021 will be available in early February.  

Spring break

Due to concerns about increased transmission of COVID-19 due to travel-related activities, we will not have a traditional spring break in March, but instead will offer instruction-free days during the semester to allow for rest and personal time. Student and faculty input was taken into account when making this decision. These dates are reflected on the academic calendar. Instructors will be asked not to schedule exams, quizzes or assignment due dates on the days immediately following the instruction-free days.

Public health requirements

We do not anticipate any changes to our public health requirements from the guidelines that have been in place for the fall semester. We will still require everyone on campus to wear a mask unless alone in a private room or office, practice physical distancing and good hygiene, and complete daily self-screenings before leaving your room or coming to campus.

Events, gatherings and visitors

At this time, we do not expect to start the semester with any changes to our current policy regarding events and meetings. Gatherings will be limited in size and must be approved by Campus Life or the executive vice chancellor, dean or vice chancellor/provost responsible for the unit hosting the event. We are hopeful that as conditions improve during the spring semester, we will be able to lift some of these restrictions and allow more events to take place on campus. The Danforth Campus visitor protocol will remain the same at the start of the semester, other than the addition of admitted students to the list of mission-critical visitors in April.

COVID-19 testing

All Danforth Campus undergraduate students who are returning to St. Louis for in-person instruction will receive testing at the start of the spring semester. Graduate and professional students will be offered an optional entry test at the start of the spring semester. Undergraduate students living in the St. Louis region will be required to complete a university-provided COVID-19 test every two weeks for the duration of the spring semester. Instructions for signing up for testing will be provided by email to all undergraduate students before the start of the spring semester. We also will continue to provide testing for all Washington University students, faculty and staff who develop COVID-19-related symptoms at any time during the spring semester upon referral from Habif Health and Wellness Center or Occupational Health.  

Faculty and staff work arrangements

Danforth Campus and Central Fiscal Unit employees will continue with their current work arrangements, with many working remotely to reduce campus density. Schools and units will determine their individual needs for on-campus staffing, and will plan accordingly to bring back to campus additional employees who must be physically present in order to perform their job responsibilities. If conditions improve and we are able to bring more employees back during the spring semester, managers will determine how and when to do that. Our goal will be to provide at least one month of advance notice to any employee who will be asked to return to campus from working remotely. The  Flexible Work Arrangement Policy remains in effect.

We continue to closely monitor regional and national conditions, which we know will keep changing. It is always our hope that conditions will improve and we will be able to loosen restrictions as the semester progresses. At this time, however, we feel it is in the best interest of the health, safety and well-being of our community to stay the course and plan for limited activities on the Danforth Campus this spring. 

We will share details about the return to campus for the spring semester by December 11. Students also should keep an eye out for additional communications with details about the following:

  • Undergraduate students who are planning to return to campus for in-person instruction this spring are required to self-quarantine for two weeks BEFORE returning to St. Louis.
  • Deans will communicate directly with students with more detailed, school-specific information, including for some a link to a survey where they will need to indicate their plans for spring by December 11.
  • Undergraduates who are traveling outside of St. Louis for the winter break should make sure to take any critical personal items with you such as medicines or valuables in case we have to delay the start to the spring semester.

We know you may have questions, and we encourage you to check the Frequently Asked Questions page on the WashU Together website for the latest information, or to email or call our information hotline at 314-935-8300 or 888-234-2863 for assistance.

We are grateful for all that you continue to do to allow us to fulfill our mission in support of research, education and patient care. It has already been a long haul, and the road ahead remains uncertain. It is reassuring to know that whatever the future brings, our community will rise to the challenge. It will be an unusual spring, but we know that together, we will make it the best semester it possibly can be.


Andrew D. Martin

Beverly Wendland
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs