Gov. Northam and the Commonwealth are eager for Virginia’s universities to reopen carefully and have worked closely with us on how to do so. In-person learning is hugely important.
But while typical college-age students are generally at low risk from severe complications of COVID-19, we know some in our community are at higher risk. With our mission to teach citizen-leadership, it’s our particular responsibility at Longwood to advance that mission in a way that contributes to our national and global effort to stem this epidemic.
We are also highly attentive to our faculty and staff, and to our neighbors in Farmville. As we encourage and facilitate responsible public health behavior on campus, we also expect students to honor their responsibilities to the broader community by following public health guidelines off-campus as well.
Longwood is fortunate to have a number of important characteristics that will help in these efforts:
Over the last few months, Longwood has been working hard with state officials to develop detailed plans for how exactly the fall will look – to encourage social distancing, and build in flexible academic tools to serve the needs of students. Our planning is being structured around direction from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal Centers for Disease Control’s guidance for higher education.
Of course, some details will continue to be finalized over the summer as guidelines evolve. They will naturally be rooted in the public health circumstances and official guidance in place when most of our students start returning to campus in the second half of August.
Here is what we can tell you now about what to expect for the 2020-21 academic year – how we’re preparing, and the steps we’ll be taking when students are back.
Longwood’s 2020-2021 schedule will start as planned in late August but make some minor adjustments to the fall semester calendar to allow for flexibility to address public health issues.
Classroom learning is the heart of why we’re together at Longwood. Our strategy is to accommodate and encourage social distancing in learning spaces, taking advantages of Longwood’s already small class sizes, large campus and our available classroom spaces.
We are also making plans to use technology in order to provide flexibility should students need to miss class for health reasons. Having these tools in place will also allow for continuity of instruction if public health considerations warrant additional steps – for example a short suspension of in-person classes for increased cleaning and testing.
Longwood already has small class sizes, and few large lectures — only 15 classes on campus have more than 40 students, and only six more than 50. We also have ample classroom spaces, including an additional 42,000 square foot academic building opening this summer.
In short, we have a good deal of space, and we plan to make full use of it. We are working to adjust layouts within classrooms, identify and relocate some classes to larger rooms, and even repurpose some spaces like auditoriums that aren’t typically used as classrooms.
Following CDC guidance, we are also upgrading and increasing the regular cleaning of all academic spaces, evaluating ventilation systems, and developing ingress and egress plans for buildings that accommodate social distancing.
Additional mitigation measures include installing plexiglass shields in some classroom spaces and ensuring shared equipment is cleaned between uses. We are also providing face shields or clear face masks to all faculty.
All classes will be available in Canvas, our learning management system.
Web cameras in each classroom will enable instructors to make course content available more readily and encourage innovative teaching that aligns with public health guidelines. This technology will also allow students to access materials remotely if they must miss class due to health concerns related to COVID-19.
Professional development opportunities for faculty are currently being offered this summer, and more are being planned. Students will also have resources and support for engaging in different types of teaching and learning.
In short, resources will be available to ensure that students who have symptoms of an illness or have been quarantined can be absent physically from the class but maintain progress with their work.
Guidance from the CDC and Commonwealth have encouraged flexibility to take additional steps if there are a substantial number of cases in a campus community and/or community spread. If needed, additional steps could include temporarily moving classes online.
We know some faculty have particular health risks related to potential exposure to COVID-19. At-risk faculty will benefit from additional adaptations, including the possibility of offering some classes online.
The planning for flexibility and continuity of instruction will also address the possibility of an instructor being physically absent from class for health reasons.
We know social distancing cannot be made absolute on a college campus. But members of our campus community play a vital role in mitigating the spread of Covid-19, and steps to encourage it will be part of campus life next year.
Longwood is also fortunate to have an ample on-campus housing supply, and every on-campus residential unit in use has either been built or remodeled within the last 15 years, with high-quality building systems in place.
All on-campus residence halls have advanced ventilation systems that provide each individualized room its own direct to-and-from circulation of outside air, so air is not circulated among rooms.
There are no community-style bathrooms in Longwood residence halls, and all shared bathrooms in suite-style accommodations will be limited to a maximum of 4 students. Our housekeeping partner, The Budd Group, has continued stepped-cleaning efforts over the summer and will be intensifying those efforts further for public spaces across campus, including residential corridors.
Longwood’s housing office has been working to make additional single rooms, including single bedrooms within suites, available to students through the housing assignment process at a discounted rate.
Longwood students will see a variety of new practices and set-ups with our dining options on campus, which are administered by Aramark. You can read about some of the steps Aramark is taking nationally.
On our campus, meeting spaces near the Dorrill Dining Hall and in Upchurch University Center will be repurposed to provide additional space for distancing.
We don’t know yet what guidance may be in place across Virginia regarding gatherings and events, including possible limits on gathering and meeting sizes. Whatever restrictions are in place, they will apply to Longwood extracurricular activities and campus life.
Our Student Affairs office will work closely with extracurricular organizations to ensure they have adequate space for social distancing at meetings, and that their activities follow close guidelines. Some major events such as Convocation will likely be reconfigured.
Longwood’s intercollegiate athletics program has its own set of comprehensive plans to protect the well-being of student-athletes, in close consultation with the NCAA.
Our campus Health and Recreation Center is scheduled to re-open July 6, and planning is continuing that we expect will allow many if not most campus recreation programs to proceed, with precautions and guidelines in place.
If public health authorities recommend additional steps either at the beginning or during the academic year, Longwood may consider implementing further restrictions on gatherings, student travel, or public facilities use.
Longwood has a strong network of health care resources and partnerships in place to respond if cases emerge on campus, and is finalizing strong protocols to respond when that happens. The University is working closely with the Virginia Department of Health on how to respond in the event of Covid-19 cases in the community.
The University Health Center, located in Mid-Town Landings near central campus and operated by Potomac Healthcare, and staffed by physician and advanced practice clinicians, is operated for use of the campus community and every student has access. The Health Center has taken detailed steps to prepare to evaluate, test and treat students who may have been exposed to Covid-19, as well expanded options for telehealth consultations,
Longwood students also benefit from close proximity to the resources of Centra Healthcare, the region’s leading healthcare provider, which operates Southside Community Hospital one block from the south end of campus, as well as a large outpatient clinic adjacent to the north end.
We are also particularly attuned to issues of anxiety and other mental health concerns students may have at this time, including regarding Covid-19. Longwood’s Counseling and Psychological Services office will serve as a resource, and take precautions to adjust its services to allow for social distancing.
The precise policies regarding testing at Longwood and other universities around Virginia will depend on evolving guidance from the Commonwealth and other health authorities. However, Longwood is working with state officials to ensure there is ample testing capacity, and that any student, faculty or staff member requiring testing will have access to testing through the University Health Center.
We will also expect to be partnering with the Virginia Department of Health and other universities on statewide prevalence monitoring and other public health research and support.
In line with state guidance, Longwood’s current policy regarding face coverings is to encourage them, and to ask any faculty, staff or students to wear them when social distancing is not possible. We expect this guidance for higher education will continue to evolve over the summer, and we will communicate as we receive it.
Faculty will have discretion to require students to wear face coverings in class, consistent with applicable law and state guidelines.
The guidance from Virginia and the CDC to colleges and universities anticipates that positive cases will likely appear in campus communities, and offers direction on steps campuses should consider. Steps Longwood would take include:
Longwood’s planning for Fall 2020 is designed to encourage responsible public health behavior by all, as well as giving students who wish to do more some options to take further steps. We understand students have varying special circumstances.
If you’re not sure how best to get connected with the right person at Longwood to answer questions about your particular circumstances, we encourage you to email email@example.com.
Continuing updates regarding Fall 2020 and Covid-19 will be available at: www.longwood.edu/covid19
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