Dear Students, Parents, Faculty, and Staff,
I’ve seen dozens of announcements over the past two days, by other schools and businesses, that start with “Out of an abundance of caution….” But at Shenandoah, it is so much more than that. And so it’s with an ABUNDANCE OF CARE that I am writing to inform you that we are implementing additional modifications to the operations of Shenandoah University for at least the next two weeks. We simply must take every measure possible — seriously and swiftly — in order to ensure the health and safety of every member of the SU family.
Shenandoah was among the first schools in Virginia to announce earlier this week that we were moving online to protect our students, faculty and staff. But the environment is changing by the hour. Just yesterday afternoon, Governor Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency for Virginia and recommended new measures to combat the coronavirus. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is imperative that we take increased action as individuals and as a Shenandoah family to help limit the risk of contagion.
Families look out for one another in good times and in bad times. These are tough times, and there are likely to be additional challenges before we turn the corner. We must reduce the density of the population at all our university locations in an effort to decrease the health risks to our students, faculty and staff — as well as to those in our households, residence halls and communities.
SU is therefore making significant and immediate changes — some of which will create anxieties and difficulties that together (from a distance) we will need to manage. In order to care best for ourselves and each other, we all must remain flexible, patient and calm. Our hope is that careful, preventative actions now will eliminate a major health and educational crisis later. We cannot predict the future, but I’m confident that these are the right actions to take to ensure the safety and wellness of Shenandoah students, faculty and staff, while we also continue to help our students progress toward their educational and career goals.
Please continue to check su.edu/coronavirus as this situation unfolds. We are trying to address all questions in the FAQ — please look at the website first to get answers to your questions. The university will continue to monitor the situation daily and an update on next steps and continued operations will be provided by Thursday, March 26.
Along with having a pandemic preparedness plan in place for years, SU’s emergency leadership team has been meeting about the coronavirus since January. These past months of planning for this specific situation will serve our students and community well now and in the coming months. We understand that these transitions are unusual and can provoke anxiety, but we believe that the compassion, care and commitment to quality that is central to the Shenandoah experience will provide the support essential for us all in this trying time.
Spring break is coming to a close. Monday we will be in FULL SWING as a university … just in a different way. Maybe these coming weeks will help us appreciate our campuses, colleagues and friends more. Perhaps they will lead us to be creative in ways we never before imagined. And while you are away or hunkered down or online, I hope that you will remain healthy, and that you will find new ways to spread Shenandoah care.
Sending prayers, and a warm Shenandoah air-hug to all of you,
President Tracy Fitzsimmons
At this time, the following actions will remain in effect until at least 8 a.m. on March 30:
- Our Residence Halls Will Largely Close: SU is a family, and SU feels like home for all of us. As the health crisis is growing rapidly, we now believe that the best place for most of our students is at home with their families. This is a change to what we announced earlier this week; since then, the situation and recommendations have changed. Therefore, our residence halls will largely close beginning Sunday, March 15, at noon. Only students with critical housing needs will be approved to stay in campus housing to comply with public health recommendations. Students with compelling reasons to remain or return must apply through the StarRez housing portal and provide Residence Life with a detailed description of their situations. Students who are approved to remain on campus must agree to practice social distancing and appropriate self-care — safety will, without a doubt, be our primary concern.
- All on-campus events and performances will be canceled or postponed.
- All athletic practices and competitions will be suspended.
- Most employees will be allowed and encouraged to work remotely. The university’s leadership is working to identify essential functions that will require minimal in-person staffing. The vice presidents will work to establish those possibilities and parameters with each department. Employee safety and social distancing are of critical importance.
- All classes, as previously announced earlier this week, will be conducted online March from 16 through March 29.
- Students on clinical rotation, internship or student teaching should continue to be in contact with their placement coordinators as the situations in their areas evolve.
- Winchester locations will only be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The Allen Dining Hall will only be open from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.; noon to 1 p.m.; and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Those choosing to eat in the dining hall will be required to practice social distancing. ICPH-Fairfax, SP-Loudoun and Cool Spring may have their hours even further reduced.