Dear students, faculty and staff,
I hope you are enjoying a summer in which you and the people you love have remained safe and well. We are committed to doing whatever is necessary and possible to ensure your safety upon your return to Shenandoah. We will adapt and evolve to meet the needs of a highly changeable world while continuing to provide an amazing educational experience.
I can’t wait to welcome you all back to one of our SU locations. We’ve had a very encouraging summer, beginning with successful student orientations that will continue throughout the month. Our first-year students are excited about being on campus and we are happy to see them — while maintaining proper distance and wearing Shenandoah-themed masks!
Things look a little different on our campuses with safety signage and plexiglass erected in high-traffic areas. We’re making plans to hold classes and other small-group activities in spaces normally reserved for large events so that everyone has room to physically distance. This means classes could be held in the chapel, the Ferrari Room or in a number of auditoriums on the main campus or even in one of our new outside classrooms. The situation continues to change daily and rapidly, and Shenandoah is pivoting to adapt to ever-evolving health conditions, circumstances, CDC guidelines and governmental executive orders.
As we move into this unprecedented fall semester, please be reassured that we are implementing measures that are not only intended to make our various locations and the learning experience safe for our entire university community, but also to ease any concerns you might have. Shenandoah is your home and we want you to feel comfortable here.
Returning to Campus
Our main goal in planning to reopen Shenandoah is to reduce health risks for members of our community while maintaining the core mission of the university. Relying on guidance from state and national health officials, we expect to start our semester in-person on Monday, Aug. 24, with plans to provide flexibility between online and face-to-face instruction.
We entered the last phase of Shenandoah’s reopening plan on July 6, when many employees returned to campus wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing. Throughout the summer, more employees will continue the transition from primarily remote operations to full on-campus operations in August observing extra safety precautions and allowing for flexibility as personal situations and health needs differ.
- Returning students, faculty and staff are expected to “live low” for 14 days before returning to a campus location. (The exception to this is distance learners who will not be taking any in-person classes)
- By “living low”, we mean staying home when possible, limiting exposure to non-family members, taking necessary precautions when traveling, always wearing a face mask around non-family members, washing hands regularly, and avoiding large crowds/gatherings
- Our Resident Assistants are set to come back to campus Aug. 12-13 (changed as of July 22)
- Fall student-athletes will not be required to move in early; first-year student-athletes will move in Aug. 18-19 and returning student-athletes will move in Aug. 22-23 (changed as of July 22)
- The Office of Residential Life will contact students about the move-in process
- We will have a staggered move-in process for first-year residential students Aug. 18-19. A New Student Convocation will be held on both of these days in order to ensure ample social distancing
- We ask that returning students move in Aug. 22-23
Campus Health and Safety Measures
In response to the pandemic, we are taking numerous additional health and safety precautions. We have always had strong relationships with local health officials, and we are working closely with these partners on health and safety measures for the fall. We are requiring all students, faculty and staff to wear a face covering in all indoor public spaces. Face coverings are also required outdoors when social distancing of 6 feet isn’t an option. Everyone at a Shenandoah location, including visitors, must log their daily symptoms and may be asked to do temperature checks either at home or while on campus. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, our Wilkins Wellness Center staff will assess you and direct you to a nearby testing site.
Keeping SU Safe — Pledge
Reopening Shenandoah, and maintaining a safe and healthy environment, require the conscientious cooperation of each one of us. The actions necessary to keep our community safe, such as wearing face coverings, are outlined in a pledge. All students, faculty and staff will receive communications in the coming weeks about how to endorse the pledge to do their part to keep themselves and others safe while on campus.
In addition, there will be a variety of requirements and training opportunities for students, faculty and staff regarding COVID-19 education and required actions and behaviors to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Housing and Classroom Safety
All residential rooms and campus locations are currently being deep cleaned and disinfected. We have posted social distancing signage, added many hand sanitizer stations throughout campus, and erected plexiglass barriers in a number of highly populated spaces. Additional safety measures are likely to be implemented before classes start and even as they are underway. We are ready to adapt in order to keep our university community safe.
We’ve also increased the number of residential rooms for students who need a single — especially those who have underlying health conditions. We have increased our housing capacity by 20 percent and lifted the requirement that first- and second-year students must live on campus for the 2020-21 academic year. We are also establishing designated wings with private rooms (and private bathrooms) to be used in case isolation or quarantine is necessary for any of our students.
Although Shenandoah’s typical class size is less than 25 students, we’ve lowered maximum capacities for each classroom. Spaces have been reconfigured to ensure compliance with CDC guidelines. Seating plans will allow for students and faculty to be spaced at least 6 feet apart, and we’ve also established some outdoor classroom spaces. Larger spaces typically held for events, such as that in the Goodson Chapel, will also serve as classrooms.
A New Fall Calendar
To provide the safest environment, the university will not observe Labor Day or fall break during the semester to limit travel (to and from the region) for students, faculty and staff.
- Students will have a full week for Thanksgiving break from Monday, Nov. 23, through Friday, Nov. 27
- Faculty and staff will be off Wednesday, Nov. 25, through Friday, Nov. 27
- We expect in-person classes to resume after Thanksgiving break on Monday, Nov. 30, and end on Sunday, Dec. 6
- The semester concludes after exams on Saturday, Dec. 12
Should a second wave of coronavirus arrive at any point, the ShenFlex model (which allows us to provide flexibility between online and face-to-face instruction) would facilitate a transition to an all-online format if necessary.
At this point, there are many questions surrounding fall sports. As an NCAA Division III institution and a member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, we are in active planning with the ODAC leadership on a return-to-play for intercollegiate athletics. Student-athlete health and safety is our primary concern and we are committed to the resumption of intercollegiate athletics within that framework. We are ensuring that we follow state and university guidelines and recommendations from the NCAA, ODAC and the CDC. Updates will be posted to www.suhornets.com and to our social media channels @SUHornets.
Events on Campus
We will continue to monitor updates and follow Virginia executive orders about limitations on the size of gatherings and physical distancing for events and performances. We will not host non-Shenandoah events for the rest of the summer. We are looking forward to hosting events on campus only when we are confident that it is safe to do so. The conservatory has been working on a gradual return-to-performance set of guidelines that will ensure the safety of our students and our audience members. More information will be forthcoming.
Thank you all for your flexibility as we are moving forward together in uncertain times. Shenandoah is dedicated to providing the safest environment possible so that everyone — students, faculty and staff — can flourish during their time here. Together we are Shenandoah, and together we will continue to rise.
Thinking of you, and wishing you joy and good health,
President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.