Aside from bringing professionals back to the workplace safely, one of the largest concerns for Virginia—and the country—is welcoming students back to college campuses, and doing so in a way that mitigates risks associated with the current COVID-19 crisis.
How are Virginia’s universities approaching the rapidly evolving global pandemic? Through multiple different efforts, including phased move-ins, mandatory testing and more. Find out how four of Virginia’s schools are currently planning to reopen for the fall semester, and stay tuned for more as updates are announced through August.
With four campuses across Northern Virginia, George Mason University is having to navigate the pandemic for a wide array of students, all within the jurisdictions of Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun and Prince William counties. As of publication time, the university is planning for students to return on time for the fall semester, scheduled to begin on Monday, Aug. 24, with a mix of in-person and expanded, online classes. What has now been coined the “hybrid” approach will allow students to follow proper social-distancing guidelines, as well as give options to students who are not yet comfortable returning to campus.
“Our Safe Return to Campus plan assumes that Governor Northam and public health officials will have determined by early August that general conditions in Northern Virginia will allow for a safe return, pursuant to the Governor’s phased approach to reopening Virginia’s economy,” says the school’s website. The school also has made it clear that testing will be available on campus, as well as contact tracing and emergency response to potential outbreaks. For more updates, students, faculty and family members are encouraged to check back on the university’s website, and keep up with updates from Gov. Ralph Northam.
As of June 12, Marymount University announced the Saints Reunite plan, which lists out how students will return to campus with a phased approach, including testing, contact tracing, repopulating and monitoring as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Before returning to campus, all students will be encouraged to monitor their health within seven days of their arrival. All students will be briefed on the new “SAFE SAINT” initiative that promotes social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing. These measures will also be made clear in a new student orientation, where students and families will be made aware of health-preserving strategies and how the university (as well as individuals) will be expected to respond to sickness.
Courses will be offered ranging from face-to-face to online instruction, and student leaders and ambassadors will be trained on proper social distancing when it comes to extracurricular activities outside of academics. There is much more for current students and families to know before returning on to campus, such as how vacations and nonessential travel will be handled, how the university will continue to detect new cases and contact tracing, and more. Please visit the up-to-date draft (currently under review by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia) of the university’s reopening plan, and stay connected with the website for accurate information as the situation evolves.
After recent updates to the Return to Grounds plan, the University of Virginia has released a list of comprehensive guidelines in order for students to return to campus safely for the fall semester. First, students are being highly encouraged to self-quarantine beginning 14 days before returning to campus. “This means the student should stay home, separate from others outside the home, monitor their health and follow directions from their state or local health department,” the university’s website says. Students should refrain from attending large gatherings, be vigilant about their in-person contacts and maintain physical distancing whenever possible.
Next, all students, both undergraduate and graduate, who will be on campus this fall, must complete a mandatory COVID-19 viral PCR test with a proven negative result in order to return. UVA is contracting with a third-party vendor to supply the tests to families, and there will be no charge for the test. The tests will be self-administered within seven days of returning to campus, and all test results will be available within 24 to 48 hours. If a student tests negative, they will be permitted back on campus with current health and safety guidelines. If a student tests positive, they will be asked to self-isolate at home and not return to campus. Students will be allowed to come to campus once a 10-day quarantine is followed and a negative test result is supplied.
For other safety guidelines the university plans to follow, please check the university’s website, where staff and faculty are providing updates as much as possible for the fall semester.
Virginia Tech students will begin classes on Monday, Aug. 24, but not without the state’s current safety guidelines in place, including mandatory face masks while inside university buildings, social distancing and more. According to the university’s current plan, all students who wish to return to Virginia Tech’s campus will be asked to participate in a COVID-19 screening, through a combination of daily health verification surveys and viral testing. All students will be required to fill out their daily health survey through an online portal, and five priority groups of students will be tested before and during their stay on campus. All students who will be living on campus are strongly encouraged to participate in the COVID-19 screening before moving in. Other priority groups being tested include symptomatic students, contact-tracing testing (those who have been identified as having been in contact with someone who has/had COVID-19), risk-based exposure students (testing individuals who, due to their academic responsibilities or their job have high interactions with the public) and finally, ongoing surveillance for all students during the remainder of the semester.
For students not comfortable with returning to campus, remote opportunities will be available and should be assisted by faculty and staff in order to make the most successful outcome for the individual. Most classes will follow a hybrid model, with expanded virtual offerings and in-person offerings given to hands-on courses, such as lab classes, studio courses and smaller lectures.
For other safety measures, the university has planned a phased move-in schedule, updates to housing contracts and more. To find additional information, visit Virginia Tech’s comprehensive back-to-class guide here.