VCU details phased reopening plans

Faculty and students involved in clinical placements, clinical services, field placements, labs and lab simulations will return in phases beginning in June; fall semester set to begin Aug. 17.
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Virginia Commonwealth University today announced plans for a phased reopening of the campus to students, faculty and staff.

In a communication to the university community, VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., said efforts to reopen come as the world responds to the COVID-19 pandemic and the nation reacts to the very public killings of African Americans.

“Both of these issues are, of course, top-of-mind as we plan our return to campus. Our priorities are the health, safety and wellness — both physical and mental — of every member of our community,” Rao said.

Rao outlined plans for the return of the health sciences schools and college and research faculty and staff beginning in June. The fall semester will officially begin on Aug. 17. Rao said the announcement fulfills a commitment to students to inform them of Fall 2020 plans in early June.

“For all of us, the world has changed in profound ways during these two months, but we know you need to move forward with making personal plans and understanding what to expect when we come back together this fall,” he said.

Faculty and students who are involved in clinical placements, clinical services, field placements, labs and lab simulations will return in phases beginning in June and followed by two-week increments in July. Non-designated staff who cannot work remotely will return in those same increments. By Aug. 17, all employees who directly support students will return to campus while others will continue teleworking.

The fall semester calendar will be adjusted. Except for Labor Day, there will be no break from Aug. 17 through the last day of classes on Nov. 24. After the Thanksgiving holiday, finals will be conducted remotely Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 for MCV Campus classes and Nov. 30 to Dec. 7 for Monroe Park Campus classes.

One VCU: Responsible Together - VCU's phased return to campus

Rao said on-campus courses may be smaller because of physical distancing requirements. Some classes may require students to alternate in-person attendance. Many courses may be blended, conducted in-person and online. He said faculty and students will have more resources to support online learning.

Fall commencement, originally scheduled for Dec. 12, will be affected. The university will continue to monitor guidance on larger gatherings over the next several months and explore how to recognize the classes of 2020.

Rao said a successful in-person semester will depend on everyone working together to keep all members of the community safe.

“Even in uncertain times, we have proven to be a community that quickly and successfully adapts and pivots to respond to the unforeseen. We will all need to be prepared to demonstrate the same flexibility as circumstances change going forward,” Rao said. “Now we have the opportunity to prove that we can be responsible together in our commitment to foster the health and welfare of everyone in our community.”

While many details need to be worked out, Rao said the highest priority is the safety of students, faculty and staff. In returning to campus, VCU will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state, provide flexibility to vulnerable community members, monitor community health, respond quickly to infection rate increases, and work to adjust to waves of COVID-19 infection and new medical guidance.

VCU will distribute supply kits to students and employees that include washable masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray; will implement an increased cleaning schedule for campus buildings; will provide health monitoring and prevalence testing; and will require students, faculty and staff to complete return-to-campus training.

Students and employees will monitor their health and participate in testing, will be required to wear face masks and practice physical distancing, will clean and disinfect personal and shared spaces before and after each use and report any COVID-19 symptoms to a call center hotline.

Additional information about the return to campus is available on the new One VCU: Responsible Together website at together.vcu.edu.

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