Virginia Tech shares plans for spring semester amid coronavirus pandemic

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — While there are still a couple months left in the fall season, Virginia Tech already has plans ready for the spring semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement released by Virginia Tech on Monday, Oct. 19, while the spring 2021 semester will start and end as originally planned, the traditional, weeklong spring break in early March is being modified to discourage travel that may increase the risk of COVID-19 spread.

“In sharing this additional information about the spring semester, we are not announcing a change in direction or plans. Rather we are applying our existing strategies to next semester,” said President Tim Sands. “The decisions we are making are based on past experiences and current information and data, but with the recognition that should circumstances change, our community will be able to adapt as needed. Our hope is that circumstances will improve and that restrictions, over time, can be eased or lifted, but that time will come only if we remain vigilant and adhere to public health guidelines.”

Here is the list of key dates for the spring 2021 semester, according to Monday’s statement:

  • Spring course request will begin for students on Oct. 27.
  • Campus residence halls and dining centers will reopen for returning students beginning Jan. 16, 2021, but Housing and Residence Life will contact all students planning to live on-campus for the spring semester in December 2020 with instructions to sign up for a move-in time slot.
  • The university will be closed Jan. 18, 2021, for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
  • Spring semester classes will begin on Jan. 19, 2021.
  • All instruction will be delivered fully online through Jan. 22, 2021, in order to allow for a gradual move-in process for residential students, surveillance of COVID-19 prevalence, and targeted mitigation of health and safety risks.
  • In-person and hybrid instruction will begin on Jan. 25, 2021, and continue through to the end of the semester based on the individual course plans developed by faculty.
  • Spring semester classes will end on May 5, 2021.
  • Final exams for the spring semester will be held May 7-12, 2021 either in an online, hybrid, or in-person format depending on current public health guidelines, the availability of suitable classroom space, and the course syllabi.
  • The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Commencement Ceremony will be held May 8, 2021.
  • The Graduate Commencement Ceremony and Senior Day will take place on May 13, 2021.
  • The University Commencement ceremony is scheduled for May 14, 2021.
  • College and departmental ceremonies are set for May 14-15, 2021.
  • Northern Virginia Commencement Ceremony will be held May 16, 2021.

“As was demonstrated during the fall semester, courses may either be fully online, hybrid, or fully-in-person as determined by each instructor,” Virginia Tech said. “Every effort will be made to continue making progress towards a return to in-person instruction.”

You can also find the 2021 spring semester academic calendars for the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the DVM students in the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine online.

As for “spring break,” Virginia Tech says students will still have a chance to enjoy some downtime and stress relief during the spring semester through five one-day breaks. These one-day breaks will have no classes, no assignments, and assessments, according to the university. The dates for these single-day spring semester breaks are scheduled as follows:

  • Feb. 5, 2021
  • Feb. 25, 2021
  • March 17, 2021
  • April 6, 2021
  • April 26, 2021

“Experience has clearly shown that a break from studies during an academic term is essential for a student’s well-being,” said Frank Shushok, vice president for student affairs. “While we want to discourage travel that could aid in the spread of COVID-19, we don’t want to eliminate much needed downtime that students seek for their overall well-being.”

Virginia Tech says all residential students will be required to complete a 14-day period of self-quarantine prior to their arrival for the spring term, as well as be tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival for the spring term. Students should expect an update on this process by Dec. 1.

In addition, the university plans to continue random prevalence testing for students and the high-contact testing program for employees during the spring semester in Blacksburg. According to school officials, these testing programs will start Jan. 25, 2021, but the first group of test participants will receive an email notification by Jan. 20, 2021.

“As students travel back home and back to campus in between semesters, they must remain vigilant and committed to all the public health guidelines we’ve all been asked to adhere to since the pandemic began,” said Shushok. “Before they go home, and before they return to campus, all students must recommit to wear a mask at all times outside of their home or pod; to stay physically distant even as they wear their masks; to wash their hands frequently; and to make sure they have a flu shot. If they do these important things, the risk of transmitting infection to family members at home or friends or roommates here is virtually eliminated.”

According to Monday’s statement, Virginia Tech’s Global Travel Oversight Committee will allow for the possibility of study abroad activities to proceed this spring depending on program-specific reviews and compliance with public health and safety guidelines. Officials say they will evaluate each individual program proposal based on its own merits, the risks inherent to the destination, and any necessary mitigation policies and protocols.

As Virginia Tech previously announced, all study abroad programs scheduled for the 2020-2021 Winter Session have been canceled. In addition, all Winter Session classes will reportedly only be offered online.

If you have any questions about these spring semester plans, you can submit them ahead of Virginia Tech’s next virtual town hall, which is set to discuss the spring plans at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22.

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