South Dakota's public universities, including Dakota State University in Madison, are trying a new fall semester schedule.
At the heart of the schedule change is that students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving. The idea is to avoid transmission of the coronavirus during long weekend traveling away from and back to campus.
On a smaller scale, the universities won't have three-day holiday weekends, which are Labor Day in September, Native American Day in October and Veterans Day in November. Fewer students will travel on those weekends now.
To make this plan work, the fall semester will start earlier, on Aug. 19. That seems very early, but it's really only three days earlier than originally scheduled. By adding those early days to the three eliminated holidays, students can finish instruction day requirements by Thanksgiving.
Final exams or projects will then be conducted remotely after Thanksgiving, rather than returning to campus.
We have no way of knowing whether the schedule change will reduce infections. University officials don't know, either, but we admire the spirit and creativity of the initiative.
South Dakota universities had committed earlier to in-person classes this fall. Not all schools around the country have done that yet, and many may continue with online learning only.
We'd guess that most, but not all, students and faculty are eager to get back to on-campus learning. This much advance notice about the remote final exams or projects -- plus the experience of remote exams this spring -- should make the semester go better.
The experiment of a different fall schedule to mitigate the virus spread is worth trying. We hope it helps.
-- Jon M. Hunter