Virginia Tech shares plans for summer, fall operations guiding toward in-person learning

Education

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — At this time, Virginia Tech’s operational plans for the summer and fall are pointing toward face-to-face instruction.

The university says the Virginia Tech Student Affairs and Office of Emergency Management put together a 39-page plan for summer and fall operations in order to guide school officials as they move toward in-person learning during the fall semester.

This plan incorporates guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 72, and expertise within Virginia Tech. Because of the dynamic nature of the pandemic and rapidly changing guidance from the CDC, Virginia Tech will continue to adjust university plans, procedures, and protocols as circumstances and federal and state guidance surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve.

According to Virginia Tech’s statement on Monday, May 17, here are the highlights of the plan and current requirements:

Summer 2021

Summer school

  • Virginia Tech will conduct a hybrid in-person/online residential summer semester aiming at offering approximately one-third of courses fully in-person.
  • In-person classes will adhere to existing COVID mitigation strategies, including vaccination promotion; face coverings; and six feet of social distancing, although this may be modified as new guidance is received from local, state, and federal health agencies.
  • The university is planning a virtual orientation for the summer of 2021.
  • There is a potential for abbreviated in-person welcome programming immediately preceding the start of the fall semester.

Pods (small groups of students who can interact in an un-masked environment)

  • The pod registration system will continue, which means students will be required to register their pod by the end of the second week of classes.
  • Students can create their pod in the Divisions of Student Affairs’ StarRez portal.

COVID-19 testing strategy

  • Details will be released before the start of each semester.
  • Testing space and equipment will be cleaned continuously.
  • Members of the campus community may be exempt if they have been vaccinated.

Face coverings and masks

  • Per CDC and Virginia guidelines, fully-vaccinated individuals are not required to wear masks in most indoor settings, except on public transit; in health care facilities; and in congregate settings, such as classrooms or shared spaces in residence halls. 
  • Non-vaccinated people should continue to wear face coverings in all settings and make arrangements to get vaccinated.

Vehicles

  • If all occupants in a vehicle are fully-vaccinated, face coverings are not required, but they are recommended.
  • If at least one occupant is not vaccinated, or vaccination status cannot be determined, all occupants should continue to wear a face covering while in the vehicle.
  • If all occupants are fully vaccinated, 80 percent of the seating capacity may be occupied; maintain spacing when possible.
  • If at least one occupant is not vaccinated, or vaccination status cannot be determined, adhere to the COVID-19 seating guidelines (no more than two persons in a passenger vehicle; one per seat, alternating sides in 12-passenger vans and larger)

Summer field and on-campus research guidelines

  • All approved undergraduate/graduate research may be conducted in person, provided all appropriate approvals and protocols are in place.
  • Small research lab groups of up to 10 fully-vaccinated students, staff, and faculty may work together without distancing. However, face coverings are still recommended for fully-vaccinated people when working indoors with others.
  • Non-vaccinated individuals and groups where vaccination status is unknown or undetermined should keep wearing face coverings and practicing physical distancing while working in the laboratory or during field research.

Residential housing isolation and quarantine

  • Certain residence halls will be used to isolate or quarantine until it is deemed unnecessary from a public health perspective.
  • Current isolation and quarantine spaces includes outdoor space, food delivery service, and a support and care service.

Summer camps and conferences

  • Conference groups for summer 2021 will be limited to university-affiliated groups.
  • Group sizes may be limited in order to maintain an efficient and high-quality customer experience in the dining hall(s).
  • Residence hall room occupancy will be limited to single rooms.
  • Short-term camps and conferences will only be offered in May, June, and July to make sure there is enough time for fall semester preparations.
  • To allow for adequate flow in and out of the dining halls, the number of participants in summer school, long-term stay guests, short-term conferences, and day camps using Student Affairs facilities may be capped at any given time at 750 people.
  • All participants will be encouraged to receive a vaccine, when eligible, before attending.
  • Participants must submit verification to the group sponsor of a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours before arriving.
  • Group members will be encouraged to self-quarantine immediately following their COVID-19 test until they arrive on campus
  • Sponsors will be required to sign a form stating they are responsible for collecting and maintaining records of coronavirus materials.
  • The Schiffert Health Center will not be available to non-students.
  • Face coverings are required when people are outside of their assigned residence hall room.
  • Face coverings will also be required in any gathering of at least two people not sharing the same residence hall room, even for individuals who have been vaccinated.
  • When gathering in groups of two or more people either inside or outside, at least six feet of physical separation is required, but not replacing the mask requirement.
  • Guests will be scheduled for meals to reduce congestion with summer school residents and between groups.
  • Guest dining will be controlled by ID cards, which will be sanitized prior to distribution and will use barcodes and barcode readers so guests do not need to hand dining cards to dining workers.
  • All self-service food stations will be removed, which means all food items will be served by dining employees.
  • Dining cleaning protocols currently in place will continue into the summer.
  • Housekeeping staff will be cleaning restrooms multiple times a day, as well as high-touchpoint areas.
  • Residence hall rooms and common spaces will be left vacant between groups for at least 48 hours to ensure enough time for cleaning.
  • Before, during, and after each conference, housekeeping staff will clean bathrooms, hallways, lobbies, lounges, and other high-traffic/high-touchpoint areas within the residence halls.

University visits and campus tours

  • Virginia Tech will resume in-person visits and conduct campus tours for interested potential students and other university activities starting June 1.
  • Visits will require all parties to adhere to all current COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
  • Tours will be restricted to groups of 25 people or less, depending on the current requirements.

Fall 2021

Fall classes

  • Virginia Tech plans to return to a more normal semester in fall 2021, which starts on Aug. 23 and ends on Dec. 15.
  • The university expects classrooms will return to 2019 capacities.
  • The university anticipates academic programs and student support offices will reopen full-time and offer in-person services.
  • The university plans to maintain sufficient testing capacity for prevalence and surveillance testing.
  • The university is preparing to implement continued coronavirus mitigation strategies, such as vaccine promotion, face coverings/masks, hand-sanitizer stations, increased air handling, and other facility-based approaches.
  • The implementation of some or all COVID-19 mitigation strategies will be impacted by internal and external factors and disease management metrics with input from the VDH
  • Both Virginia and Virginia Tech officials are evaluating a vaccination requirement for the fall semester.
  • The move-in strategy for the fall 2021 semester will be consistent with guidelines and best practices that are in place at that time.

Campus operations (requirements subject to change)

  • Virginia Tech community members are expected to stay in their residences when sick or return to their place of residence if they become sick.
  • People are expected to wear face coverings/masks covering the mouth and nose in indoor spaces, as well as when outdoors and unable to maintain at least six feet of physical distancing from other individuals who are not vaccinated or not family members.
  • Community members are required to maintain at least a six-foot physical distance when possible from every person present at a location.
  • Individuals are required to either wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or use hand sanitizer.
  • The university’s housekeeping teams will regularly clean high-touch surfaces and continue to follow stringent, documented standard operating guidelines for everyday maintenance and viral disinfection.
  • Ongoing preventative maintenance activities — including changing air filters and UV lights within HVAC systems — will occur on a regular basis.

Student affairs

  • Housing and Residence Life will limit the number of students living on campus to no more than two people per room. The department will also require a 10-day pre-move-in quarantine, practicing social distancing and personal hygiene, using face coverings/masks, avoiding public spaces, and self-isolating if identified as infected with COVID-19 or at-risk of infection.
  • Dining Services will limit sales to off-campus students for summer and fall 2021.
  • Students will be served in dining facilities, in compliance with state standards relating to such facilities, such as physical-distancing standards.
  • All dining facilities have eliminated cash payment as a form of payment.
  • All self-service areas except beverage dispensing have been removed.

Surveillance and monitoring

  • Faculty, staff, and students are expected to monitor their health and report any symptoms to Schiffert Health Center (students) or their primary care physician (employees).
    • Employees are expected to report to Human Resources and/or Environmental Health and Safety if their health care provider or the VDH indicates they should be tested for the coronavirus.
    • Students should inform the Dean of Students Office if the Schiffert Health Center, their primary care physician, or the VDH indicates they should be tested for COVID-19.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to secure a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test result within five days of returning to campus or show proof of vaccination documentation.
  • Those who test positive for the coronavirus are required to self-isolate based on their local health department requirements before returning to a Virginia Tech location.
  • Initial testing of residential students upon their return to campus will occur during the move-in days through a testing clinic coordinated by the Schiffert Health Center.
  • Residential students are required to take part in testing when they return to campus.
  • Members of the Virginia Tech community will be exempted from prevalence and/or surveillance testing if their full vaccination is on record with Virginia Tech.
  • Virginia Tech has set aside residential space for purposes of isolating or quarantining residential students in support of public health containment.
  • Isolated individuals will remain in a single room with a private bathroom during their isolation period, except for outdoor recreational time and as allowed by a health care provider. Necessary items — such as food, hygiene needs, and household items — will be brought to the isolation space.

Communications

  • Any information regarding university operations that the university community needs to know will be included in the Virginia Tech Daily Email and on the VT News (VTx) site.
  • University Relations also sends an email regularly about updates and information.
  • Town halls, expert panels, and presentations will be held virtually as needed to help inform the community, but they may start to be offered in person, as CDC and VDH guidelines permit.

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