Spring break is a time-honored college tradition, but during a pandemic, it is being left behind.
Oklahoma Christian University has adjusted the spring academic calendar to eliminate spring break to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to other communities and reduce the risk of bringing cases to campus.
The spring semester will begin on Jan. 24, 2021, weeks later than years past. The winter break preceding the semester will last two months, as the fall semester will end on Nov. 19.
This means students will attend class continually during the spring semester without a break, as the semester will begin after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and skip a weeklong break in March.
Chief Academic Officer and COVID-19 Task Force leader Jeff McCormack said the decision to adjust the calendar was difficult but necessary.
“Anytime you think about people moving on and off campus on a regular basis, there is an increased risk of contracting or bringing COVID back on campus,” McCormack said.
Hundreds of campus members travel across the country during spring break. While there is an immediate concern about bringing the coronavirus back to campus, McCormack said there is also the risk of spreading the virus to families at home or fellow travelers.
“It’s not only about the health and wellbeing of our population,” McCormack said. “It’s about the other people we come in contact with.”
While the elimination of spring break was determined to be important, McCormack said he is saddened by its absence.
“I hate not having spring break,” McCormack said. “It’s a horrible decision, but I think it’s the best decision. It takes away from fun times, rest and mission trips, but it is for the best.”
However, some students say they are concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of themselves and their peers as they work without a break.
Senior Lexi Robinson said spring break is a necessity after the long hours the entire campus puts into Spring Sing, one of Oklahoma Christian’s largest campus events and an important recruiting experience.
“If you’re going to have Spring Sing, you need to have spring break,” Robinson said. “Our grades are already going down because of how stressful Spring Sing is, but now we don’t even have a whole week to recover.”
Sophomore Sara McNeal said breaks are also important for faculty who use the time to catch up on grading and get a break from teaching.
“It’s just as important to faculty and staff,” McNeal said. “[For example], my statistics professor is working and working and teaching lots of classes, and there are days where she is grading three classes worth of tests. If she had a break, it would be so life-changing.”
In addition, McNeal said reserving time for spring break prioritizes mental health.
“[The school] tells us to take care of our mental health, and then they don’t give us time to take care of it,” McNeal. “It feels like they forget what it is like to be a college student and balancing homework with social events and spiritual life.”
Robinson said she knows people who have struggled with their mental health this semester and is worried about their wellbeing during the spring semester.
“This semester has been very difficult for a lot of people,” Robinson said. “A lot of people have been going through a deep depression and now they don’t even get a break this year. There is nothing for us.”
The fall semester also eliminated breaks, with a long winter break between semesters. McCormack said the Oklahoma Christian community has done a good job of containing COVID-19, which allows the campus to host events like Fall Fest in lieu of a break.
“We’ve done great this fall,” McCormack said. “We had a fantastic fall semester with COVID looming over us. I really think we’re going to have a good spring semester.”
McCormack said he hopes to find a way to reward students for their hard work over the spring semester if cases continue to remain under control.
“It is my intention to work towards identifying some time during the semester where we can flex into some type of relief or mini-break,” McCormack said. “It won’t be a full week, and I don’t know what it will be yet, but I want to be able to say, ‘Hey, let’s get some type of break during the spring semester.’”
McNeal said she understands why spring break is being cancelled, but she hopes administrators will find a way to give single days off during the weeks for students to get some rest, as most campus members still work over the weekends.
“Weekends aren’t a break,” McNeal said. “Students are always doing homework over the weekend and professors are grading. An actual break is what fall break and spring break are for: to give us time to recuperate and relax.”