State Watch

Rice University announces switch to online classes for beginning of school year


Rice University on Thursday announced that it will be switching to online classes for at least the first two weeks of school amid a higher number of COVID-19 cases.

Rice’s provost, Reginald DesRoches, said in a letter to students that classes would start on Aug. 25 and remain virtual through at least Sept. 3.

“By that time, we will have reassessed our instruction and other mitigation policies. It remains our intention to return to fully in-person instruction this semester,” DesRoches said.

The dean of undergraduates wrote a letter to students saying that the university was responding to a higher number of COVID-19 cases that had been detected on campus and in the Houston area.

“I’ll be blunt: the level of breakthrough cases (positive tests among vaccinated persons) is much higher than anticipated,” Undergraduate Dean Bridget Gorman said in her letter

“And while it’s important to recognize that we can expect illness to be much milder among the fully vaccinated, it has become clear that as a campus community we need to take steps to further assess and recalibrate how we will manage this illness at Rice this year,” she continued.

The state of Texas has been experiencing a surge of new cases; the state saw more than 25,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday compared to as low as hundreds of new cases in June, per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Schools, businesses and local governments are grappling with how to handle a surge of COVID-19 cases as the delta variant spreads through unvaccinated communities. Last week, the University of Texas at San Antonio also announced that most of its courses would be virtual for the first three weeks of the fall semester.

Alternatively, some school districts in Texas have issued mask mandates, defying GOP Gov. Greg Abbott who has issued an executive order banning mask mandates.

But school officials such as Gorman hope that the return to remote learning is only temporary.

“I am sure that reading this, you feel a sense of disappointment that we find ourselves in this situation — I know that I do. But, as much as our vision for our fall start is shifting, I remain optimistic that these changes reflect a relatively short-term opportunity to pause-and-reset, rather than permanent alterations to how life on campus will be this semester,” Gorman wrote. 

Tags COVID-19 Remote learning
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