Cornell delays fall semester start date due to storm repairs

Cornell College leaders have decided to delay the beginning of the academic year by two weeks to ensure campus facilities are ready for the safe return of students following Monday’s intense storm (derecho).

The first day of classes will now be Sept. 7 instead of Aug. 24. New students will begin moving in Sept. 2, and the rest of the student body will move in Sept. 3–6 with proper social distancing measures in place. 

“We appreciate the patience and understanding of our students and their families as we alter schedules so close to the beginning of the academic year,” said President Jonathan Brand. “We look forward to welcoming our students back soon, but our primary concern right now is the safety of our community. This shift will ensure our facilities team will have time to make necessary repairs and bring our campus back online after the devastating storm.”

Sustained winds from a derecho, strong enough to be compared to a Category 2 hurricane, swept through Iowa on Monday, Aug. 10. The college is waiting for utility crews to repair power, internet, and phone service. Governor Kim Reynolds has announced a disaster declaration for 20 counties, including Linn County, home of Cornell College. 

“While we wish we didn’t need to make a change to our schedule, the block plan once again provides enormous flexibility as we recover from this disaster,” Brand said. “We are able to pivot quickly, allowing our year to start a little later without impacting students’ classes or their progress toward graduation.”

While the damage assessment is still underway, our facilities team reports that more than 100 trees were damaged by the high winds. Campus buildings largely withstood the storm. The sports center and facilities building, however, have roof damage and other buildings are missing shingles. 

“We have already made great progress in removing downed trees and debris from campus,” Brand said. “Resilient is how I would characterize the Cornell community—an impressive attribute. Simultaneously, we need to remain focused on making decisions that are in the best interest of our students as well as of our faculty and staff. We are dedicated to creating the best experience possible.”  

The new calendar will allow Cornell College to finish the entire four-block semester, 3 ½ weeks for each block, before winter break.

September 7–30: Block 1

October 5–28: Block 2

November 2–25: Block 3

November 30–December 23: Block 4

Cornell has created a fund to help assist students with disruptions caused by the storm and the college’s decision to shift the academic year. An online form will be available next week. Early move-in plans will need to be rescheduled as Cornell awaits the restoration of power and can test the safety systems in the residence halls when power returns to campus. Students with unique travel difficulties can contact