Both Averett University and Danville Community College are moving forward with plans to return to traditional in-person learning models for the fall semester.
But that doesn’t mean things won’t look different amid adjustments for more social distancing and continued wearing of face coverings.
At DCC, classroom and common areas for students are being adapted to allow for more spacing, Faith O’Neil, a spokesperson for DCC, told the Register & Bee.
Averett University is expecting one of its largest classes ever in the fall after receiving more than 3,000 applications for next academic year, President Tiffany Franks announced in a campus letter.
“We anticipate most classroom experiences to be in the traditional, in-person format, without the need to offer as many courses in the hybrid and/or online format,” Cassie Williams, a spokesperson for Averett, wrote in an email to the Register & Bee.
Averett also hopes to get back to “as close to normal” for activities around campus including fine art events.
Right now, DCC has about 60% of its courses being offered in some sort of virtual format, O’Neil said. The college also plans to continue summer coursework in an online fashion with those classes starting May 24. The campus will officially reopen for the fall semester Aug. 23.
“We’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure a seamless reopening for our students, faculty, and staff,” dean Cheryl Terry said in a news release. “Everything will be in total compliance with CDC guidelines and our own reopening plan to protect the safety of our campus and everyone learning and working here in the fall.”
Many employees at DCC still are working from home, but all staff members will be asked to return July 1. That will allow plenty of time to get ready for the fall semester, O’Neil said. Staff members who work in areas such as admissions or the bookstore — places that involve student-facing services — returned to campus last summer.
Over at Averett, current classes are equally divided into three categories: face-to-face, virtual and a mix of both. In additional to flexibility, using this approach allows faculty who are at-risk to teach online, Jones said. It also provides a conduit for international students who right now aren’t allowed to travel to the United States.
Of course, the university has always always offered some level on online study, such as the non-traditional program for undergraduate and graduate programs.
Unlike DCC, the majority of Averett’s faculty and staff are already back on campus working.
Averett is planning an outdoor graduation May 8 at the Frank R. Campbell Stadium with a plethora of safety precautions in place. First, each graduating senior only will be allowed two tickets. That’s to help with social distancing seating.
Face masks also will be required.
“Of course we will be enforcing all of our other health and safety protocols, like enhanced cleaning of spaces like restrooms, decreasing the potential for crowds and having hand sanitizing stations available,” Jones said. “We continue to follow local, state and national guidelines as they will determine event size and format.”
Last year, the university hosted an individualized in-person ceremony in December, along with a virtual format.
“We can’t wait to experience this joy again with our spring 2021 graduates,” Jones said.
DCC’s graduation will be online at 10 a.m. May 15 broadcasting on YouTube.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have not planned any large-scale outdoor events ahead of our reopening,” O’Neil told the Register & Bee. “With the loosened restrictions, our administration and the staff in student activities will begin to explore what is possible and how to best make possible future events safe for out students, faculty, and staff.”
COVID-19 and vaccines
As of Thursday, Averett had two positive COVID-19 cases in isolation, its online dashboard indicates. Six more are in quarantine. Since January, there have been 26 positive cases at the university.
DCC’s last positive test came March 10, when a staff member was infected with the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The health department determined there were no other exposures. Since January, four students and three staff members have tested positive.
O’Neil cited health privacy laws when asked how many DCC staff members have been vaccinated.
“As a state agency, we follow the lead of the Virginia Department of Health and their efforts to vaccinate our community members in waves,” she explained responding to a question asking if the college had any initiatives to promote student vaccination. “Our campus has been selected as a vaccination site for those who the health department has contacted and scheduled and we are proud to support that effort. “
At Averett, nearly 40% of the full-time workers have rolled up their sleeves to be vaccinated. In addition, about 20% of students are inoculated against COVID-19. Those numbers are likely higher because some may have gone to other clinics, a pharmacy or medical providers.
“We are in the process of surveying our campus community to gain additional insight and data,” Jones said.
The students who received a shot were either nurses, volunteers or what the university calls “experiential learning students.”
The remaining ones were invited to the J.C. Penney state-run clinic “during their first two weeks of operation when it became evident that they were not filling their appointment slots,” Jones said. That invitation came by the “head of the VDH,” she said.