On Thursday, June 11, Longwood announced that the university will be reopening for in-person instruction for the fall 2020 semester, after being closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The email came from Matthew McWilliams, assistant vice president of communications for the university, on Thursday afternoon, shortly after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that higher education schools could reopen in the fall.
The email went on to say that the semester will begin on August 24, and will conclude as regularly scheduled with only a few minor adjustments.
“This fall we will hold classes on Labor Day and cancel fall break. Because of this, in-person classes will be complete by Thanksgiving break,” the email read.
David Schoenthal, associate provost and vice president for academic affairs, explained that the reason for the changes was to minimize student travel and exposure to COVID-19. He added, “And to allow for more flexibility in the academic schedule should we need it.”
In order to keep the negative impact on student learning this fall minimal, the university is planning on having students return to campus after Thanksgiving break for review and finals, if need be.
Schoenthal said, “For finals that are offered online, they would be able to take those in their rooms, allowing for easier access to technology. We anticipate that some final exams will be offered in-person, particularly where the course content is hardest to switch to an online format.”
Longwood’s main goal is for life to resume to “as normal as possible” in the fall, but there will be changes made to campus life. In-person instruction will resume, with a few classes being taught online, in order to ensure the health and safety of the campus community.
Adaptations will be set in place for students with health concerns, which include the use of online courses, and a webcam for in-person courses. Schoenthal said, “Faculty who are teaching classes will be able to use a webcam to either broadcast or record classes so that students in isolation can keep up.”
He added that there will be a process in place for faculty to request adaptations to fall schedules based on health concerns.
In addition to these changes, classrooms and furniture will be cleaned throughout the day. Schoenthal said that the university has set a budget, and cleaning protocols will be utilized to keep the community safe.
Students will not need to be tested prior to returning to campus for the semester, unless they are symptomatic or feeling ill. Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Matt McGregor, who also heads the COVID-19 task force, said that testing will be available for the Longwood community, but campuswide testing will not be administered at this time.
McGregor said, “At this time, the Virginia Department of Health does not recommend campuswide testing, and we are closely adhering to their expert guidance.”
When students do come to campus, things will be different. Move-in days for residential students will be staggered, new setups will be in place at dining locations and open spaces will be repurposed. Changes will be made across all departments, and activities will likely look different.
McGregor added, “We are developing flexible plans for events because we don’t know what state guidelines will be in place in late August.”
For more information and updates, visit http://www.longwood.edu/covid19/what-will-fall-look-like/.