Stanford says it’s really, really bringing students back in winter

Dec. 7, 2020, 1:20 p.m.

Stanford will proceed with its plans to bring frosh and sophomores back to campus in a phased approach for the winter quarter, welcoming most students back two weeks later than originally planned according to an email sent by Provost Persis Drell on Monday. 

The provost’s message comes days after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that many regions in California would be placed under new restrictions as intensive care units run out of room. Santa Clara County announced on Friday a stay-at-home order before state-wide restrictions went into effect in the region, along with several other Bay Area jurisdictions. The order took effect on Sunday evening, banning private gatherings and closing indoor and outdoor dining, personal care services, bars, wineries and museums. Retail, grocery stores and essential businesses are allowed to stay open at 20% capacity. 

According to Drell, the delay will allow more time for the current surge in cases to pass, and reduce the total number of students moving into campus at one time. Undergraduates with special circumstances, resident assistants, and new transfer students will still move to campus the week of Jan. 4. All other students will arrive from Jan. 21 through Jan 24. 

“Our experiences and outcomes this fall, coupled with the advice we have received from our medical experts, give us the confidence to move forward with these modified plans,” Drell wrote. 

Drell continued to cite low campus virus prevalence rates as she did in early November. At the time, Drell added that the University would make a final decision regarding winter quarter ahead of the University’s Dec. 14 administrative close. While Monday’s announcement was the most significant yet, the University has repeatedly reaffirmed its plan to invite students to campus for the winter quarter in spite of rising case counts in recent weeks. Stanford originally planned to bring frosh and sophomores back to campus in the fall, but ultimately reversed its decision.

 “We have gained valuable experience with our COVID-19 testing programs, and we are activating plans to expand those programs for winter quarter,” she wrote.

Most winter quarter instruction will still begin on Jan. 11, and it will be largely remote, with the first two weeks of instruction fully remote. After students arrive on campus, there will be no in person gatherings, including student households for an additional two weeks, leaving six weeks in the quarter for “campus experience that we hope (assuming health conditions allow) will permit safely designed gatherings, in-person interactions, and other features that begin to approach the ‘normal’ campus experience.”

On arrival day, undergraduates will be tested twice. Drell wrote that the University is “establishing a residence-based system for an initial rapid test, to be followed by a second COVID-19 test following arrival.” All students will have a private sleeping space, and after arrival all on-campus students will be required to test twice per week. 

Drell wrote that a virtual town hall will be held this Friday at 9 a.m. Pacific time. Additional communication is expected in the coming days. 

This article will be updated.

Contact Emma Talley at emmat332 ‘at’

Emma Talley is the Vol. 265 Executive Editor. Previously, she was the Vol. 261 Editor in Chief. She is from Sacramento, California, and has previously worked as a two-time news editor and the newsroom development director. Emma has reported with the San Francisco Chronicle with the metro team covering breaking news and K-12 education. Contact her at etalley 'at'

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