VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU) student Ashley Roehrman is happy to start her senior year on campus.
“My first day, it was exciting,” Roehrman said. “I was nervous. There were a lot of emotions going on. It was super cool to see people I haven’t seen in almost six months.”
All students returning to campus received CARE Packages, or wellness packs that might be exactly what one would expect in the age of COVID-19.
“It comes with a VW mask,” said Roehrman. “A little fever strip. You can test yourself every day.”
When in-person classes started Monday, Aug. 24, so did new protocols.
Students, faculty and staff must wear masks at all times, indoors and outdoors. There are robust cleanings, especially in high-touch areas.
Classrooms are equipped with new technology – video cameras and microphones – for remote learning. Chairs inside the rooms are spaced out six feet apart.
“Classrooms that normally have 24 [seats] now have 12; we had to restrict and hold firm on the cap,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Maynard Schaus.
One of Roehrman’s classes is being held in a gym on campus that’s been turned into a classroom for added space.
“It’s pretty different,” Roehrman said. “It’s just getting used to, I guess, the new norm.”
Before students were even allowed to step foot on campus, they were required to take a COVID-19 test, submit the results online and quarantine for two weeks. If they didn’t do that, they weren’t allowed in.
“Nearly 100% of students who registered have submitted their results,” said Vice President for Campus Life and Operational Management Keith Moore. “It’s a testament to how much they want to be here. It really is a testament, proof that they want face-to-face instruction.”
While school administrators say students are sticking to the rules, there is a big concern of them attending large parties with the potential to spread the virus.
Numerous videos of packed, rowdy parties on campuses across the country have been shared on social media, often showing no signs of social distancing or wearing face masks.
“We’ve discouraged individuals from hosting or attending social gatherings,” Moore said. “We’ve been very open in our communication with both students and parents relative to behavior on and off campus.”
As for students who do break the rules, they’ll be forced to leave for the rest of the semester or even permanently.
“They are one of the more important parts of the success of our plan,” said Moore. “They play a vital aspect in their own educational experience.”
Roehrman is hopeful her peers will play it safe but does worry.
“That’s definitely a concern,” she said. “It’s a global pandemic, and we’re looking at the numbers. It’s concerning, but I’m hoping that people are smart about it. We’re all adults, and I’m hoping they just take it seriously.”
Classes at the university will be held on Labor Day. The two-day fall break in October has been eliminated and class will meet on those days.
In-person classes will end on Friday, Nov. 20 for Thanksgiving break. All students will leave the campus and not return until the spring semester starts next year. The fall semester will continue after Thanksgiving break with remote instruction from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.