HMI Semester Update: Campus Closure Extended; March 30, 2020

Dear Semester 44 students and families,

As many of you are aware, yesterday the federal government extended coronavirus guidelines  designed to reduce the spread of the virus through April 30. These recommendations affect non-essential travel as well as gatherings of over 10 people. 

These guidelines mean that we will need to modify further our semester schedule and programming. Here’s what we know:  

  • A potential return to campus would occur after April 30.
  • We will resume remote learning from April 12 (the date we return from spring break) and continue academic classes through at least April 30.
  • Our Sem 44 Schedule Task Force will create contingency plans for what semester programming, including expedition and academic learning options, might look like after April 30. 

Our goal remains to have Semester 44 return physically to campus while complying with government and public health orders designed to prioritize the health and safety of all members of our community. These new modifications to our schedule acknowledge updated advisories while preserving possible options for Semester 44 to return to campus in some form. There may of course come a time when this will no longer be practical, but we are not at this point yet. Faculty and staff are not, however, simply waiting for official guidance to plan for different eventualities. They are hard at work anticipating what those could be and creating options that honor Semester 44 as best we are able. In the spirit of transparency and partnership, we will share these plans as soon as possible.

We understand that this news is likely upsetting, and we want nothing more than to see Sem 44 students back on campus this spring. We are sad about this news too. We also continue to learn more about how our students learn online with each passing week. Given online learning will continue for an extended period, we are looking at revising our weekly schedule to reduce screen time. We will have more information on potential changes to our weekly schedule when we return from spring break.

Only three weeks ago, I wrote to this community, asking for patience and flexibility as we charted a course forward. When I wrote those words, I am not sure I imagined sharing the news we have today. Given such fluidity, our challenge is to maintain a wider perspective while walking in the dark with a headlamp illuminating only the first few feet in front of us. So realism and caution join patience and flexibility in our calculus. As we continue to step with thoughtfulness and deliberation, it is also important to ask if reaching our destination is realistic while understanding this answer might not reveal itself as soon as we would like. Asking for patience in an anxious time is difficult, but all the ways Semester 44 has risen to the occasion so far this spring gives us confidence we can do so once more.

Thank you as always for your support, encouragement, and willingness to face together the challenges in front of us. We keep going together.

With appreciation,


P.S. I also have some good news about our peers from HMI’s Gap Semester. The students repatriated from Peru on Friday evening. All were home to their families on Saturday!

Daniel O’Brien

Head of School

High Mountain Institute