Pittsburg State University has made changes to its spring calendar in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the community, the university announced Wednesday.

The spring semester will start as scheduled on Jan. 19. Spring break, however, originally scheduled for the week of March 22, has been moved to the end of the spring semester during the week of May 10. Dead week will be the week of April 26, and finals week will be the week of May 3. Spring commencement will move to May 7 and 8.

“While advances in science and mitigation strategies will continue to evolve, we don’t expect the virus to disappear in time for the spring semester,” Provost Howard Smith said in a press release. “We also know that reducing exposure will continue to be the most critical element of keeping our campus open and healthy.

“Spring break is traditionally a time when students travel for vacation, or at minimum return home to their hometowns,” he said. “This schedule still provides that opportunity but puts it at the start of summer rather than in the middle of the semester when they would be returning to campus.”

The changes align with the approach PSU is taking this fall to reflect virus mitigation best practices; the university will dismiss face-to-face classes on Nov. 20 and finish the semester online.

As they move to address the spring semester, PSU also announced its plans for commencement. The fall commencement is now planned for Friday, Nov. 20, and the rescheduled spring 2020 commencement will be held Nov. 21. The university also announced a number of safety measures that will be in place at the ceremonies.

“Though each will be different and smaller than a typical commencement ceremony, we're very pleased that we're able to accommodate all of the activities most requested by our Spring 2020 graduates and our soon-to-be Fall 2020 graduates,” Smith said. “We also appreciate the patience of those graduates and their families as we worked out the details so we could ensure safety, but also a celebratory atmosphere, for such an important milestone in their lives.”

PSU’s plan was signed off on by the Crawford County Health Department, which reviewed the university’s mitigation strategies. Those strategies include keeping graduates and their guests together rather than mixing into a crowd, each ceremony being in near-constant movement with no seating, strict social distancing, and masks being required at all times, with the exception of students during the time they stand for professional photos and cross the stage to receive their diploma cover.

Each graduate will be issued four tickets for guests, which will enable reduced occupancy requirements for the Plaster Center and the Weede Building. Each ceremony will be live-streamed to accommodate additional family and friends from home.

The ceremonies on Friday, Nov. 20 will begin at 2 p.m. starting with the College of Technology undergraduates and concluding after the 7 p.m. ceremony for the College of Arts and Science undergraduates. On Nov. 21, the festivities will begin at 9 a.m. with the Fall 2020 graduate students ceremony and concluding with the Spring 2020 College of Education and College of Technology undergraduate and graduate students at noon.

The university said it will release additional details and information and instructions for getting guest tickets in the coming weeks.