Looking south from the Quad

Clarence H. Blackall, Class of 1877, designed Foellinger Auditorium, was completed in 1907 before a complete renovation in 1983. Behind it, workers broke ground on the underground undergraduate library in 1966. Anthony ZIlis/The News-Gazette

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URBANA — Pending academic Senate approval, the University of Illinois is planning to cancel spring break and push back the start of the semester by a week.

Like with ending in-person classes in the fall semester at Thanksgiving, officials hope canceling spring break reduces the number of times students travel to and from campus. The later start would allow time for arriving students to get tested and isolate or quarantine.

According to Education Policy Committee chair Linda Moorhouse, her committee unanimously recommended the changes, which would also add three noninstruction days to the spring semester.

The days off would be during the middle of the week to avoid long weekends that lend themselves to travel.

Under the proposed calendar, the start of spring semester would be pushed back from Jan. 19 to Jan. 25.

Spring break was originally scheduled from March 13-21.

The three days off would be Wednesday, Feb. 17; Wednesday, March 24; and Tuesday, April 13.

The semester would end at its usual time, with commencement on May 15.

Senate Executive Committee chair Rob Kar said at Monday’s meeting that he expects the Senate to approve the proposed calendar.

“I don’t think there’ll be any controversy at all with the idea of eliminating a period where all of our students go away and then come back to Champaign in the middle of a semester, or shortening the semester to help with that,” he said.

Provost Andreas Cangellaris said the administration is planning to share the new calendar broadly if it is approved at the Oct. 19 meeting.

Also Monday, UI officials said expanding the saliva-based test beyond the university community is proving to be more difficult than perhaps expected.

In a virtual talk with the Chicago Council on Science and Technology, Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation Jay Walsh urged patience as the UI works on scaling the tests.

Asked about testing in K-12 schools, he said, “There are numerous challenges in moving this forward quickly.

“We’re planning this, but we also need everybody to recognize that this is going to take a little bit of time, and there are numerous logistical steps to move forward on this.”

He noted that while the UI is testing about 35,000 students twice a week at the Urbana campus, there are more than 2 million K-12 students across the state, plus another 100,000 staffers.

Walsh said labs are being built to process tests in communities around the state, but “there are numerous hurdles for us to overcome.”

On Sept. 10, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it could take six to eight weeks to expand the UI’s test, depending on the FDA and manufacturing of equipment.

While the UI announced in August that it was operating under the umbrella of Yale University’s FDA Emergency Use Authorization based on a bridging study it performed, it has since removed those statements from its website.

Spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the UI thought it was following FDA guidance when it made the announcement in August and that its tests have always followed federal guidance, which now allows for laboratory-developed tests without further FDA approval.

But the lack of FDA approval is part of the reason the test hasn’t yet expanded beyond the university community, said Ben Taylor, spokesman for SHIELD Illinois, the UI System’s program for expanding the test throughout the state.

“My understanding is that we will need an FDA Emergency Use Authorization to conduct testing in labs outside of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab on campus, and that’s one of the main hurdles,” he said. “Another issue is that it takes time to set up one of these operations ... and the tests also will need to be paid for by whichever group is going to be tested.”

Unit 4 spokesman David Brauer said the Champaign school district isn’t expecting to implement the tests until “late fall at the earliest.”


Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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