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Emporia State has joined a growing number of universities in preemptively canceling spring break as a way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The university sent an email out to students, faculty and staff about the Spring 2021 calendar changes on Oct. 2. The changes to the calendar do not affect the semester’s end, but ESU will delay the start of the Spring 2021 semester from Jan. 20 to Jan. 25. The residence halls will reopen as planned on Jan. 17.

In the email, Provost David Cordle said by “forgoing spring break, we hope to decreased the possibility of COVID-19 outbreaks on campus.”

“When the topic first came up at the Fall Planning Group, we did talk about it with that group and one of the members of the FPG was Brayden Soper and he is the President of the Associated Student Government,” said Gwen Larson, director of media relations at ESU. “He understood the rationale for not taking spring break, because we know there is more likelihood that COVID could come to campus and spread.”

Soper shared there were a lot of good conversations about the spring 2021 semester, many of which centered around concerns for students’ mental health.

“They asked for my input a lot, which felt good,” he shared. “As one of the only students that was a part of that conversation, I at least felt like I could get some student input across and I do think that my opinions and ideas were validated.”

He explained that the process was similar as the process to take away fall break for the fall 2020 semester.

“The decision was to take spring break away, which is five days off of classes, moving the first day of class from a Wednesday to the following Monday, which accounts for three of those five days,” Larson explained. “And then adding two days, on in March and one in April where there would not be classes.”

Larson added that Soper had valid concerns for the mental health of students if there were no breaks during the spring semester.

Washburn University made the decision to cancel their spring break too in efforts to combat the coronavirus. However, students are urging WU to reconsider their decision to cancel spring break.

Student leaders at WU said they were blindsided by the announcement of students going through 15 weeks of uninterrupted classes. Washburn Student Government Association passed a resolution to call administrators to consider an alternative to add three mental health days to their spring calendar.

“Those breaks are really beneficial to making sure that our students are not getting burnt out and having a couple of those long weekends or weeks off can be the difference in getting to recharge and take a step back,” Soper said.

His biggest concern was similar to the students’ concern at Washburn — that ESU students would also go the entire semester without any days off to recharge.

“Mental health is just as important as physical and emotional health,” he said.

Spring break was taken off of the calendar for overall safety, but the Fall Planning Group wanted to be able to add a few days of no class for mental health and appointment scheduling, Larson said.

“It used to be frowned upon to take a day to yourself unless you were sick,” Soper said. “I think that mental health is something we all need to take seriously.”

So, while students will not have the traditional week off in March, they will see some extra non-class days on their academic calendars.

Although what classes will look like is still uncertain, Larson predicts that ESU will continue to have a mix of face-to-face, hybrid and remote classes. Currently, 74% of classes are face to face, 20% are hybrid and 6% are remote. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, if a faculty member has a health condition that makes it unsafe for them to teach in person, then the faculty member has an accommodation to teach remotely.

Soper shared ASG’s big project this semester — Can Covid — in order to raise monetary or canned food donations to restock Corky’s Cupboard, an on-campus food pantry to help students in need to combat food insecurity.

He said Corky’s Cupboard is in need of peanut butter, nuts, meats, canned/dried fruits and vegetables, pasta and other grains, soups, instant meals and baking supplies.

Donate online at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/cancovid or bring in donations at the Center for Student Involvement at the Memorial Union at ESU. For more information about what is happening at ESU, follow the university on Facebook @emporiastateuniversity.

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