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WCU announces changes to fall semester calendar with classes to start Aug. 17

Western Carolina University has announced plans for fall 2020 that include holding the first day of classes as scheduled on Monday, Aug. 17, eliminating the traditional fall break, moving final exams online and sending students home for the remainder of the semester prior to Thanksgiving.

In addition, instruction for fall 2020 will be offered through a blend of face-to-face, online, hybrid and modified hybrid course delivery. The last day of face-to-face classes will be Friday, Nov. 20, and classes Monday, Nov. 23, and Tuesday, Nov. 24, which are immediately prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, will be held online.

The changes are part of the university’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown said in announcing the fall semester academic calendar.

“This schedule maximizes instructional time in the early fall and minimizes the opportunities for students, as well as faculty and staff, to travel away from campus on extended breaks. This strategy should reduce exposure to and spread of coronavirus,” Brown said. “It also should align the academic calendar in such a manner as to avoid a densely populated campus in late fall and early winter, when the potential for a significant resurgence of the virus may be highest.”

The academic calendar and strategy for instruction are part of a comprehensive and evolving plan for the fall semester being developed by a working group in the Division of Academic Affairs led by Richard Starnes, WCU’s interim provost, and based on guidance from the University of North Carolina System.

Current plans for resumption of operations for the fall semester may shift in response to changing conditions, Brown said. “The last few months have taught us that information and responses to new data about COVID-19 require a high level of flexibility and patience,” she said.

With the fall academic calendar now set, university leaders are working on related operational details, including plans for residential living, dining, student move-in, large campus gatherings and athletics events. Updates will be posted online at

WCU also announced that spring commencement ceremonies originally set for May but postponed in response to the pandemic, will now be held Saturday, Dec. 12, with a fall commencement ceremony Sunday, Dec. 13.

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