Virginia Tech’s residential fall semester will begin in August and end before the Thanksgiving break, the university announced on Monday.
“Today we are sharing our plan for Blacksburg, where we will blend in-person and online teaching and learning in a manner that preserves valuable on-campus experiences and engagement while also reducing the potential for exposure to the coronavirus for those who are most vulnerable,” President Tim Sands wrote in a message to community members.
For a typical student, at least one-third of courses will be in-person, with the rest online, Tech said. Sands told the university’s Board of Visitors as much last week, and mentioned that the estimated percentage of typical in-person classes could be expanded, depending on public health guidelines.
The semester will begin Aug. 24 and end Dec. 16. Scheduled holidays and breaks before Thanksgiving will occur, but nonessential travel from campus is discouraged.
“In order to mitigate the risks associated with an anticipated late-fall resurgence of this disease, we plan to pivot to online instruction and exams after Thanksgiving break,” Sands said in his message.
Several colleges nationwide have announced they will end in-person instruction before Thanksgiving, citing public health forecasts of a possible COVID-19 resurgence in late fall.
Tech plans to publish by July 13 information on how each course will be taught, whether online or in-person.
“It is anticipated that many courses will be delivered using a hybrid of in-person and online learning and that some will be fully online,” the university said.
Tech will prioritize in-person teaching for courses such as labs, studios and performances.
For students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, clinics and in-person instruction will “phase in” over the summer months, the university said.
The university plans to reduce the number of students living in on-campus housing in Blacksburg, from a fall 2019 estimate of 10,400 students to 9,100 students this fall, in part to accommodate those who may need to be quarantined. Rooms will be restricted to single and double occupancy.
“While reducing density in residence halls would make them easier to manage from a public health perspective, the resulting increase in density in off-campus housing could counter that advantage,” said the university, which notes it is still planning how to house the extra students.
“We will adapt as the housing numbers are known,” Tech said. “We are collaborating with town leaders to accommodate housing needs.”
Plans for on-campus dining also remain in flux and dependent on state guidelines. To date, students with dining plans will be able to pick up to-go food and make mobile orders on campus.
Tech is also still finalizing a plan for COVID-19 testing, contact-tracing and isolation of those who become infected — steps public health and university leaders nationwide have said are necessary for college campuses to reopen safely in the fall.
That plan will be published July 3, the university said, and will be based on guidance from the Virginia Department of Health in conjunction with Tech researchers.
Tech says it will require and provide face coverings for those returning to campus to wear indoors. The university also plans to install about 2,000 hand-sanitizer stations.
“This outline of our plan to resume campus operations and academic functions in Blacksburg this fall is based on the best information we have today,” the university said in its announcement materials. “As necessary, we will alter plans as the beginning of the semester approaches.”
Officials haven’t made a final decision of how fall sports, including football, will look like, the university said.