Shenandoah University announces reopening plans
Relying on guidance from state and national health officials, Shenandoah University plans to start its fall 2020 semester in-person on Monday, Aug. 24, while anticipating its largest fall enrollment and no employee layoffs due to COVID-19.
“I’m so excited to welcome all of our students, faculty and staff back to campus for the fall 2020 semester, along with our first-year enrollees,” said President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. “We are implementing measures that are intended to not only make our locations and the learning experience safe for our university community, but to also ease any concerns individuals might have. We look forward to an incredible academic year and expect a very strong enrollment for our fall class.”
In March, Shenandoah was one of the first Virginia universities to announce university-wide online instruction due to COVID-19. The transition was fluid due to the preparation of the university’s Incident Command System committee, which began meeting in January, and the dedication of its faculty and students. Over the past three months, Shenandoah has provided college credits at discounted rates to high school students, offered free Wi-Fi on campus to the university and surrounding Winchester community, donated several ventilators and thousands of hospital masks to local health care providers, and maintained full employment with no COVID-19 related furloughs or reduction in benefited staff or faculty positions.
In addition, early numbers support that the fall class could be Shenandoah’s largest.
A New Calendar
Shenandoah University will begin a staggered move-in process for residential students Aug. 18-19, with all remaining students returning Aug. 22-23.
To provide the safest environment, the university will not observe Labor Day or fall break during the semester, limiting travel to and from the region and allowing students, faculty and staff to focus on academics. Thanksgiving break will be a full week long, running from Monday, Nov. 23, through Friday, Nov. 27, to give members of the university community extended time with their families. In-person classes will resume on Monday, Nov. 30, and end on Friday, Dec. 4. The semester concludes on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Health and Safety Measures
The university will take several health and safety precautions, including requiring students, faculty and staff to wear a face covering in public spaces or when social distancing isn’t an option. Upon return to campus, there will be daily checks of temperatures and symptoms of COVID-19 for faculty and staff. A new app, Shenandoah Go, will also be available so that everyone on campus, including visitors, can log their daily symptoms.
Required actions to keep the Shenandoah community safe, such as wearing face coverings, are outlined in a pledge that will appear on the university’s website and app. Faculty, students and staff must sign the pledge to do their part to keep themselves and others safe while on campus. In addition, there will be video requirements and training opportunities for faculty, students and staff regarding COVID-19 and the actions/behaviors necessary to help reduce the spread of the disease.
All residential rooms and campus locations are being deep cleaned and disinfected over the summer. The university has increased hand sanitizer stations throughout campus, and plexiglass barriers have been erected in a number of dense spaces.
The university will also increase available rooms for residential students to allow for any student who wants a single — especially for those who have health conditions — to get one. The university is currently lifting the requirement that first- and second-year students must live on campus for the 2020-21 academic year. Rooms along designated hallways have also been established to serve as quarantine and isolation spaces.
Maximum capacities for each classroom have been lowered, and spaces have been reconfigured to ensure compliance with the CDC’s guidelines on social distancing. Seating plans will allow for students and faculty to be spaced 6 feet apart. That said, the average Shenandoah class size is less than 25 students.
This fall, Shenandoah will implement a new ShenFlex learning format. Classes will be structured with a face-to-face core and additional online elements, but students and faculty will be able to participate fully online if needed, ensuring flexibility and continuity regardless of any disruptions the fall may bring.
“ShenFlex is an important initiative for Shenandoah because it upholds many of our fundamental values in a time of uncertainty,” said Provost Adrienne Bloss, Ph.D. “It supports our high-engagement culture by providing multiple avenues for student interaction and support. It reflects our commitment to intellectual and creative rigor by creating clear paths for academic excellence no matter what restrictions we face in the fall. And it reinforces our dedication to supporting the needs of all individuals and populations as the impact of the virus plays out unevenly across society.”
Shenandoah University, in conjunction with the Old Dominion Athletic Conference and the NCAA, has established Friday, Sept. 11, as the first allowable date of competition for all fall sports. In order to host these contests in the safest manner possible, the university has enacted increased health and safety measures for events, which include but are not limited to: reduced-capacity seating/tailgating to take advantage of social distancing, a requirement to wear face coverings, and mobile ticketing for admission. Updates to these health and safety measures will be posted to www.suhornets.com and to the social media channels @SUHornets.
Events on Campus
Shenandoah University will follow all Virginia executive orders about the size of gatherings and physical distancing. Beginning July 1, it’s expected that the maximum capacity of events will increase to 250 people, with the requirement of masks/face coverings and 6 feet of space between individuals.