The University of Virginia’s College at Wise announced plans Thursday to bring students back to campus in August. The plan is based on Virginia Department of Health guidelines and features a slightly modified academic semester to enhance health and safety.

The Return to Wise plan includes social distancing in classrooms and other campus facilities, Personal Protective Equipment kits that includes masks, hand sanitizing stations, and an emphasis on extensive campus cleaning.

“We know our students are eagerly looking forward to returning to campus in August,” Chancellor Donna P. Henry said. “The plan we developed had input from representatives of all departments, including from students. Our goal is to give our students an enriching academic semester that they deserve. The plan is solid and also designed to allow modifications if needed in coming weeks. We can’t wait to welcome our students and our faculty and staff back to campus.”

A plan for COVID-19 testing is on the horizon. It will be operated through the College’s Student and Employee Health Services under the guidance of the University of Virginia Health Services. The College at Wise is working closely with the VDH and will follow guidelines each step along the way.

As outlined in the Return to Wise plan, fall classes will begin on Aug. 12. The semester will end before Thanksgiving so students can study and work without having to travel back to campus after the end of year holidays. The schedule, which includes one day of fall break rather than a full week, means students may return home until the spring 2021 semester is in session. College officials hope the altered schedule will stem the nationwide spread of the virus.

In addition, the College will offer many courses in two eight-week sessions while some classes will be held on a traditional 16-week format. Courses will be offered in those formats to allow for required social distancing and to ease the stress on students if the virus spreads across the nation forcing colleges to return to virtual learning.

Faculty in each academic department had input on which courses would be better served by either the full semester or eight-week format. The eight-week courses will meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two hours each session. Courses offered in the 16-week format will meet for 90 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday.

The College will provide flexibility for students, including options for course livestreaming for students who are immunocompromised and do not feel comfortable with in-person classroom instruction.

Other flexible options include:

  • Hybrid courses that meet in person and online
  • Courses taught fully online but taught synchronously
  • Courses fully online but taught asynchronously at the student’s own pace

In terms of registration, freshmen and transfer students will work with faculty advisors to set schedules for the fall semester. Returning students who have already registered for classes will be notified about the new block schedules and will be contacted via email regarding their schedules. Returning students who have not registered will be emailed instructions to contact an advisor for guidance on selecting fall courses under the new format.

The College is also working on health and safety plans for athletics, campus housing, dining facilities, social gatherings, and other events on campus. Details on those issues will be shared soon on the Return to Wise website. In addition, the College will constantly update the Frequently Asked Question page when new information is forthcoming.