With JMU resuming in-person classes Oct. 5, there are possible changes to the fall calendar. One of these changes is the elimination of fall break, which was implemented for the first time this past year. Instead, students will return home during Thanksgiving break and remain online for the rest of the semester.
Although the extension of Thanksgiving break should make up for the loss of a fall break, it almost seems like a loss for the student body. The fall break was supposed to be a way for students to catch up on their school work, visit their families or just enjoy a relaxing break from school. Without this, students won’t receive the well-deserved time off during this hectic semester.
In past years, JMU has been one of the few universities to not implement a fall break and has caused many students to question why the school doesn’t have one. It wasn’t until last year that JMU decided to provide a fall break to the student body for the 2020-21 school year due to high demand. With this break, students would’ve been able to go back home to visit family and friends as well as catch up on their work.
However, as the pandemic has continued to rise in the U.S., going home has become risky, with people fearing that they may spread the virus to their family members and friends. With this in mind, it makes sense that JMU would take away the break, but there should still be some sort of period that allows students to get a few days off school and enjoy time off while on campus.
Fall break was supposed to be Oct. 22-25, which gave students a second to breathe after nine weeks of classes. It’s unfortunate if students have already paid for a way to return home or had predetermined plans for that weekend that they can no longer get a refund for. However, it’s understandable why JMU decided to remove it due to the still prominent pandemic in the U.S.
With this in mind, JMU should still give students a two-day break from their classes that can be practiced while on campus. While students won’t be able to see their families, they’d still be able to catch up on work and enjoy a break from their courses. They could interact with their peers on campus while practicing social distancing as well as get to enjoy what the JMU community has to offer during the fall, such as pumpkin picking, puppy farms and farmers markets.
For people living on campus, it’s a way to make up for lost time after being sent home because of the initial rise of cases at the university. They’d be able to hang out with their hallmates and form friendships they maybe haven’t been able to beforehand because of the sudden shutdown. It’d also be a good way to catch up on their homework and reach out to professors if they’re in need of help with their assignments since they have free time to schedule meetings through Zoom or Webex.
A fall break would also be beneficial for professors, who could use the time to advance on grading and spend time with their families. After the elimination of the break, professors have to scramble to alter their schedules to fit the new one, which can be stressful. This way, professors can help their students from the comfort of their homes if it’s needed as well as grade assignments without feeling rushed.
Although it makes sense to get rid of the fall break with COVID-19, there are ways that it can still be implemented without students returning home and possibly contracting the coronavirus. Students and faculty both deserve some sort of break after nine weeks of working hard during this difficult semester, and the least JMU could do is mandate that students can have a break as long as they practice social distancing and don’t return home.
Kylee Toland is a junior media arts and design major. Contact Kylee at firstname.lastname@example.org.