Dear Stanford community,

This message provides an update for students and instructors about the beginning of winter quarter instruction in January. As you will read, we are now planning to begin the quarter with two weeks of online instruction, though students are welcome to return to campus on schedule and do not need to change their travel plans. Other university operations will continue.

As background: We’ve all been watching in recent days as COVID-19 cases have increased in some parts of the country, and as other universities have seen surges on their campuses. While there continue to be positive signs that the Omicron variant may lead to milder cases of COVID-19, its transmissibility this winter remains a concern.

In coming back for the winter quarter, we want to minimize disruptions to students’ coursework and also provide as much predictability as possible for both students and instructors. The current uncertainty around Omicron poses a number of logistical challenges for the start of in-person classes, particularly if students either test positive over the break and cannot travel back to campus on time, or test positive upon arrival and need to isolate.

To support academic continuity and to provide as much predictability as we can based on what we have seen in recent days, today we are sharing these changes regarding the beginning of winter quarter instruction for students:

  • Classes at Stanford will be online for the first two weeks of the winter quarter. The quarter will still begin Jan. 3 for most students, as scheduled. We will resume in-person instruction Tuesday, Jan. 18, after the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday. We continue to expect students and instructors to be on campus for the winter quarter.
  • We will ask students to take a COVID-19 test before traveling back to campus. Do not travel if you test positive! More information on this is below.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine booster, if eligible, prior to returning to campus for the winter quarter. And, all eligible students will be required to provide documentation of a booster, unless they have a medical or religious accommodation, by Jan. 31, 2022.

We anticipate this two-week period of online instruction will allow students to settle in, get booster doses and navigate any health issues without the concern of missing the beginning of classes. In planning for these adjustments, please keep in mind:

  • Students do not need to change their travel plans and are welcome to return to on-campus housing as scheduled, assuming they are healthy. In the event you do test positive for COVID-19 and need to isolate, you will be able to continue classes online and be able to recover before in-person classes begin on Jan. 18.
  • Other operations of the university are not affected, and employees should continue with their existing plans for returning to campus following the winter close. Our concern is not about the safety of classrooms or workplaces at Stanford, but about the logistical challenges of supporting students amid the uncertainties of Omicron.
  • Our testing protocols after returning to campus remain the same as announced Dec. 6. A rapid test will be available for newly arriving students, and everyone should complete Color testing twice during their first week back on campus. Student gatherings will also be limited for the first two weeks of the quarter, as described in the Dec. 6 message.

We want to extend sincere appreciation to instructors for their flexibility in making this adjustment. Our instructors have become well acquainted with online instruction over the course of the pandemic, and we hope this two-week period will make class management easier than it might otherwise be. Still, we know this will be an adjustment, and resources to support instructors will continue to be available.

Answers to a number of questions you may have are provided below. We will continue to monitor the course of the pandemic and the guidance provided by public health authorities. We wish you an enjoyable winter break, with the assurance that we will return in the winter quarter in a manner that supports students’ academic progress and our community’s health.


Persis Drell

Russell Furr
Associate Vice Provost, Environmental Health & Safety



Why is this step being taken now, rather than waiting to see if COVID-19 cases increase at Stanford once our community is back on campus?
We are hoping to minimize academic disruptions and provide students and instructors with as much predictability as possible. We believe it is prudent to make this adjustment now – and give instructors more time to plan for the first two weeks of online instruction – rather than making a shift during the university’s winter close or just after returning to campus.


Is this step being taken due to an increase in COVID-19 cases at Stanford?
No. The autumn quarter at Stanford has concluded. Our COVID-19 dashboard showed slightly elevated numbers of COVID-19 cases during the two weeks after the Thanksgiving recess. However, the move to online instruction for the first two weeks of winter quarter is for the reasons described above.


I’m a student currently away from the Stanford campus for the winter break. Do I have to return as soon as residences reopen, or can I wait until later?
If you are healthy, you are encouraged to come back to campus on-time and get settled. You can return to campus later if you choose to, but we advise against waiting until in-person classes are about to begin. This is because if you return on-schedule, test positive upon arrival and need to isolate for at least 10 days, you will be able to continue your coursework during the online instruction period. Once in-person instruction begins, any accommodations for those in isolation will need to be arranged with individual instructors at their discretion.


Is there reason for concern about the safety of classrooms and workplaces?
We continue to have strong indoor masking requirements at Stanford and generally have not seen transmission of COVID-19 in classrooms or workplaces this fall. University operations will continue in the winter quarter. Our masking requirements remain in place, and there will continue to be limitations on student parties and certain other gatherings for the first two weeks of the winter quarter to further limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission.


Are resources available for instructors to move their first two weeks of instruction online?
Yes. A comprehensive guide to moving your course online can be found here, and resources to help you can be found here.


What about the COVID-19 test students are being asked to obtain before traveling back to Stanford?
This is for students who are away from campus over the winter break and will need to travel back. To minimize the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others while traveling, we ask that you obtain a negative COVID-19 test result just before you begin your return travels. Any test, whether antigen, PCR, LAMP or other, is acceptable.


What are the details of the rapid testing process for students returning to on-campus housing?
These will be provided separately in an email that will be coming to students.


How do students obtain a COVID-19 vaccine booster and provide proof of it?
Boosters for those who are eligible are available through local health care providers and pharmacies. In the Stanford area, boosters are available at Stanford Health Care locations, and in California, boosters can be scheduled through the California Department of Public Health. Information about students’ booster doses can be loaded into the Vaden portal at any time. As a reminder, boosters in California are available for:

  • Anyone aged 16 or older who has completed their primary vaccination series with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago
  • Anyone aged 18 or older who has completed their primary vaccination series with the Moderna vaccine at least six months ago
  • Anyone aged 18 or older who has completed their primary vaccination series with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago


Will employees be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster?
We will provide more information on this following the winter close. Boosters are strongly encouraged for everyone who is eligible, as described in this Dec. 14 message.