Spring classes at UC Berkeley will begin remotely in 2021, and likely continue that way

All UC Berkeley classes will begin remotely in January 2021 and most courses will be virtual through the end of the academic year during the COVID-19 pandemic, administrators announced Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The university originally wanted to offer hybrid education for the fall after shutting down its campus in early March, but announced in mid-July that it would be fully-remote as cases worsened throughout the region.

Cal administrators have now decided to extend these plans through the remainder of instruction, despite a recent shift into the state’s less-restrictive red tier for most of the Bay Area. In March 2021, it will be one full year of remote instruction for Cal, and the majority of large universities in the country.

Some graduate students and researchers have been allowed to remain on campus and a handful of sports, like football, have resumed practicing. If the campus reopens at any point in the spring, large lectures will be fully remote and smaller classes may return at a 25-person capacity.

Any in-person classes that resume will not be mandatory, and students that received priority for on-campus housing will maintain their status in the spring.

There have been 223 total cases of COVID-19 in the community since April 1, according to Cal, and the total positive rate sits at 2.37% (The city has a positive rate of 1.55%). These numbers are much lower than other universities in the country that reopened to in-person instruction in the fall, but some instances — like a 47-case outbreak from a fraternity party in July — have sparked concern from Berkeley residents.

At the same time, business are feeling the impact of a deserted campus and steep decrease in foot traffic throughout the city.

There’s still a possibility that Cal could begin limited in-person activities and meetings during the fall semester this year, but all instruction and exams will become remote after Thanksgiving break due to travel.

Based on public health conditions and discussions with the city, school administrators will determine which instructional and social activities are safe in the spring.

berkeley campus empty showing memorial glade
The Memorial Glade seal with an empty lawn and Evans Hall in the background. Sept. 23, 2020. Photo: Pete Rosos