Each semester must be at least 15 weeks in length, including final examinations. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which periodically reviews our criteria for accreditation, further requires that schools on a semester system have at least 14 weeks of instructional time (formal class instruction plus reading period). Within Princeton’s 12-week teaching period, we need 12 occurrences of each weekday (Mon-Fri); the proposed calendar achieves this by counting the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week as a virtual Friday in most years.
A post-Labor Day start in all years would mean that there would be no possibility of maintaining a full week of fall break. In years with a late start (September 8-9), we would have at most 2-3 days for fall break, assuming the shortest possible reading and examination periods. If we eliminated fall break altogether, there would be 11 weeks of class instruction before the first break at Thanksgiving.
We currently have a 3-day Thanksgiving break (not counting the weekend). Taking the full Thanksgiving week off would eliminate a partial week of instruction (and resulting absenteeism), but require us to pull two days from elsewhere in the fall term. One option would be to pull the two days from the fall break, leaving either no fall break under a calendar that starts after Labor Day or a 3-day fall break under a calendar that starts between September 1 and 6.
Preserving a full week of fall break would avoid creating additional partial weeks of instruction in the fall term. To do so, however, we would need to start before Labor Day in two years out of the seven-year cycle. In addition, we would need to shorten the fall reading period to 8 days and the examination period to 7 days in all years.
The scheduling rules are applied to a 7-year cycle of calendars, with some variation due to leap years. So, for example, Labor Day falls on the first Monday of September, which could range from September 1 to September 7 depending on the year. In years when Labor Day falls on September 6 or September 7, there are 15.5 weeks between Labor Day and December 23rd. In years when Labor Day falls on September 1 or September 2, there are 16.25 weeks until December 23rd.
Under the proposed calendar, the fall term would start between September 1-6 and end between December 19-23; the spring term would start between January 24-30 and end between May 12-18.
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