University of Incarnate Word front lawn.
The University of the Incarnate Word has announced a delay in the majority of in-person instruction due to the omicron-driven spike of coronavirus cases. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

This article has been updated.

San Antonio universities are rapidly changing their plans for students to return to campus for the spring semester as local coronavirus cases spike, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.

The University of Texas at San Antonio announced Thursday that students will begin the spring semester virtually with most classes meeting online for three weeks, from Jan. 18 through Feb. 6.

“Based on our prior experiences, our approach to planning for this spring semester — like last fall semester — involves striking a balance between an open campus, in-person experience with a mix of modalities to optimize learning, teaching and research, while keeping our community” safe, wrote President Taylor Eighmy, Provost Kimberly Andrews Espy and Chief Financial Officer Veronica Salazar in an email to students, faculty and staff.

Alamo Colleges District also announced Thursday that it will move most classes online for the first two weeks of the spring semester, Jan. 18-29. Some courses will require in-person attendance, and students will be notified if they are enrolled in any of those classes.

Meanwhile, the University of the Incarnate Word announced Wednesday in a letter to students, faculty and staff that most classes will be moved online for the first two weeks of the semester, which begins Jan. 10. Laboratory, studio, clinical and performance-based courses, such as music and theater, will still be held in person. The university will re-evaluate the coronavirus situation and share a status update on or before Jan. 21, UIW President Thomas Evans wrote in the letter.

“I know that this is not the start to the new year that we were anticipating,” Evans said in the letter. “However, these proactive measures will decrease opportunities for transmission.”

Our Lady of the Lake University also announced late Wednesday that most classes will be held online for the first two weeks of the semester, which begins Jan. 10.

San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District raised the city’s COVID-19 risk level to severe Monday, based on elevated stress on the local hospital system, increasing case counts and a 27% positivity rate. As of Thursday, Metro Health reported 625 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and a seven-day moving case average of 3,116.

Trinity University and St. Mary’s University announced last week that they would postpone the start of the spring semester in light of the surge in COVID-19 cases. Trinity will welcome back students in person Jan. 31. St. Mary’s will start classes Jan. 24, but St. Mary’s School of Law students will return Jan. 10 as planned.

Texas A&M University-San Antonio is the only major higher education institution that has not changed its plans. Students start classes in person or online, depending on the course, on Jan. 10.

Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.