Luther students back in the fall with a modified academic calendar

Luther College will welcome students back to campus for the 2020-21 academic school year using a phased and modular approach that is flexible and responsive to the changing conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic and directives from government agencies.

The proposal was crafted by the Academic Planning Group, a subgroup of the Emergency Response Team and approved by President Ward and her Cabinet in consultation with faculty governance committees and the Board of Regents.

Public health

This framework has also been shared with Winneshiek County Public Health. The plan allows Luther to fulfill its educational mission while taking into consideration the possibility of a local outbreak and the health of the Decorah economy, which relies on Luther students, faculty and staff being on campus.

Luther College’s 2020-21 academic calendar will include a September Term (four weeks; one course), a First Fall Quarter (seven weeks; two courses), a Second Fall Quarter (seven weeks; two courses), a Spring Semester (15 weeks; four courses) and a June Term (four weeks; one course).

September term

During September Term, only first-year students will live on campus and participate in face-to-face learning. This plan acknowledges the importance of the first-year experience with respect to persistence and graduation rates while keeping the campus population down.


Pending a decision by the American Rivers Conference, fall athletes will also return to campus but sophomore, junior and senior athletes will take classes virtually. All other students will participate in online courses, internships and potentially low-residency courses in Rochester, Minn., while residing off campus.

Fall, spring

All courses in the two Fall Quarters and Spring Semester will use face-to-face instruction with students residing on campus, unless shifts to online instruction are deemed necessary by Luther College in response to directives and guidance from federal and state governments or state and local public health agencies.

June term

The June Term will focus on study-away courses (domestic and international) that were originally scheduled for January Term 2021.

Multiple fronts

Because COVID-19 presents an unprecedented infectious disease risk for all persons, the duration of the pandemic remains unclear, and the situation continues to evolve, Luther is preparing on multiple fronts to protect individual and community health.

Preparations include: coordination with local and state health authorities and systems; increased cleaning routines throughout the campus; arrangement of spaces to enable social distancing and protection of frontline workers; acquiring PPE, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, masks and other protective items for all Luther community members who need them; investigating protocols for testing and contact-tracing methods in case of an infection on campus; establishing quarantine locations for students who may become infected; and other necessary steps.