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Colleges Face Deadline To Submit Fall Reopening Plans

Students walk freely about VCU's campus pre-pandemic. (Photo Credit: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)
Students walk freely about VCU's campus pre-pandemic. (Photo Credit: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Many colleges and universities are planning to reopen their campuses – at least partially – for in-person classes this fall. Schools like VCU, UVA and Virginia Tech have already announced plans for a mix of in-person and online classes in the fall. 

But colleges still have to submit reopening plans to SCHEV, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, for approval by July 6th. VCU’s plan states that students and staff will be required to complete a return-to-campus training “so they have a better understanding of the steps being taken by the university to promote their health and safety, as well as an understanding of their expected contributions to the health, safety and success of the VCU community.” 

The university also hopes to require students and staff to complete a daily health check survey that will ask respondents if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. VCU’s plan also details a  COVID-19 hotline, and a memorandum of understanding between the university and the Virginia Department of Health for contact tracing.

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College has released its plans for reopening this summer, and a spokesperson said “it is premature to share” its plan for the fall semester now, as its pending SCHEV approval. 

A representative for SCHEV said they’ll post approved plans on their website in mid to late July. SCHEV staff will be making sure plans follow state guidance, which calls for colleges to think about social distancing not only in classrooms but also in dining and student housing areas. 

And when social distancing isn’t possible, faculty are instructed to wear face masks. The state says schools should address how they plan to reinforce the use of face coverings among students and staff on campus.

When the state guidelines were released last month, Peter Blake, SCHEV’s director, said students should expect a “new normal” on campus this fall with staggered schedules and smaller class sizes.

“While college life will change the energy, creativity and commitment shown by college and university faculty and staff will ensure that the learning experience will not be sacrificed,” Blake said. 

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Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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