Rice University to start spring semester online and require vaccine boosters for employees, students

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With COVID-19 cases continuing to surge with the omicron variant and classes preparing to return from winter break, Rice University is sharing its plans for the spring semester, and that includes vaccine requirements.

Classes are still scheduled to start on Jan. 10, however instruction will be online for the first two weeks, according to a message to the Rice community Tuesday from president David Leebron and provost Reggie DesRoches.

Anyone who can remain remote during that time is encouraged to do so.

The university says it plans to shift to a more endemic approach, meaning understanding that COVID will likely remain, so they'll be enforcing generally fewer restrictions and reducing certain public health measures like isolation and quarantine, provided people are fully vaccinated.

The online start will also allow time for everyone to receive booster shots, which is part of the university's new policy.

Here's what to know ahead of the start of the spring semester.

  • Effective Jan. 10, vaccine boosters will be required for all employees and students if it has been at least six months since your two-shot Pfizer or Moderna regime. If you took the 1-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you don't have to wait six months and should get a booster as soon as possible. The requirement applies to all employees and students who come to campus unless they are granted a medical or religious exemption. You'll be required to update your vaccination status with your booster information. A booster takes two weeks to be fully effective.
  • Classes with over 50 students must be held online.
  • Faculty teaching classes with 50 or fewer students have the option to hold their classes in person, but must make accommodations for students who do not attend in person, such as by recording classes.
  • Indoor gatherings, including classes, are limited to 50 people through Jan. 24.
  • Masks must be worn indoors at all times.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to delay returning to campus, including to undergraduate housing, until the weekend of Jan. 22-23.
  • Research activities can continue, and research facilities and services will remain open.
  • Staff should work remotely if they can until Jan. 24.


Rice says that it still plans to return to in-person on Jan. 24. The university plans to release more information later this week.

Other local colleges and universities have not yet announced protocol changes in response to rising COVID19 numbers, but officials stress, they are constantly reevaluating policies.

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