UTA, UTD to start spring semester with virtual learning

Students at two North Texas universities will begin the spring semester with virtual learning because of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 omicron variant.

The University of Texas in Arlington said it is temporarily moving most classes to an online or remote platform until Feb. 4. 

Those that cannot be taught online will still be held in-person on campus. The teachers for those courses will contact their students with plans, university officials said.

"I think it’s a good decision for some time, like, if the cases drop down, so we can go again offline," UTA management student Sanu Sanghel said.

The administration announced the decision on Thursday, saying classes will still begin on January 18, but remain online until February 4.

An email to students and staff said the hope is to get past the COVID peak health officials are projecting at the end of the month. 

"To be honest, I feel okay, because we spent almost a year and a half during the pandemic doing online courses and classes," UTA graduate student Layth Ahmed said.

At the start of the pandemic, the university moved classes online during the spring 2020 semester. 

The following two semesters offered students the option of face-to-face learning, online classes, or a mix of both.

But last semester, most students were back in person.

"Which I prefer actually. I prefer to be on the campus," Ahmed said. "To be honest, I’m working in one of the labs. Since I’m a graduate student, I’m also a research assistant. So I’ll be on the campus anyway because, like work in the lab, I can go there anytime."

A UTA spokesperson said dorms will still reopen on time.

All students and employees planning to return to campus, regardless of vaccination status, are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test by February 4th.

The University of Texas in Dallas will do the same, switching most courses to online courses until Feb. 4.

Last week, UTD announced it was delaying the start of the spring semester because of the omicron variant. The university had to resume in-person learning on Jan. 18, which is the day after the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

RELATED: UTD delays spring semester due to omicron variant

"As you are aware, the omicron variant, while less likely to result in severe illness, is highly contagious. In spite of our best efforts, we anticipate that many of our students, faculty and staff will be affected by this virus," UTD officials said. "Given the possibility of widespread absences due to isolation and quarantine measures, we have determined that adjustments to our operations are warranted during the early part of the spring semester."

UTD no longer plans to conduct random COVID-19 testing at the start of the spring semester. It will instead offer free testing to anyone living, working or learning on campus who needs it.

Several other North Texas colleges are increasing their COVID-19 protocols because of the omicron surge.

Earlier this week, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth announced a mask mandate and the University of North Texas in Denton announced mandatory COVID-19 testing at designated times.

RELATED: Omicron surge forcing North Texas colleges to double down on COVID-19 protocols