The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is moving quickly to implement health and safety measures to address COVID-19 concerns as the campus readies for fall 2020.
The measures vary from the installation of Plexiglas barriers in many high traffic areas that require face-to-face interactions, the shuffling of cleaning staff schedules, and altering the academic schedules to allow social distancing.
The College will see the majority of its staff return from telecommuting on July 6 with Virginia Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and Governor’s Office safety regulations in place. Faculty and students will arrive in coming weeks with the same safety measures.
“We are eager for our campus move forward with our plan to welcome students back in August, but we also realize that our plan must meet all the current requirements outlined by the Governor’s Office, VDH, and other agencies,” Chancellor Donna P. Henry said. “Our campus is working hard to put all requirements in place, and it is gratifying to see our employees pulling together to get the academic year off to a strong start.”
Registrar’s Office staff has given much thought to class scheduling and classroom usage in order to meet social distancing guidelines. Registrar Narda Porter and her staff have a viable plan that will be ready in time.
“The Office of the Registrar, in coordination with faculty management, has worked to manage classroom space in a way that will help students and faculty manage safety and social distance,” Porter said. “Classrooms have been measured and plans have been put in place to make sure that each class will have plenty of room for students to spread out.”
Porter said allowing more time between classes than in normal semesters will allow time for cleaning and disinfecting of those spaces.
As for the schedule and the semester modifications, Porter said the faculty approved a block schedule that gives the options of two 8 week blocks or traditional 16 week schedule to offer needed flexibility. The block schedules offer the ability to provide smaller class size.
Porter and her staff are utilizing spaces for classes that have not been used in the past. Several large meeting spaces will now be used for classes that have larger class size, but those spaces allow for plenty of social distancing.
“The goal of the new schedule is to give students more choices for fall,” Porter said. “Students are able to log in and make changes and updates to their schedules for fall according to what will work best for them individually.”
Now that the schedules are in place, the College is looking at ways to break cleaning crews into two shifts, which will help sanitization efforts. Details of those plans are still in process.
The College ordered and received 50 sheets of clear acrylic barrier materials. Each sheet allows work crews to make four to six barriers, depending on the size needed. Some have already been installed on a few Zehmer Hall classroom lecterns. Other barriers are either in place at various locations or will be installed soon. Work crews are pleased with the prototypes that are now in place so the cutting and installation process is more streamlined now.
Personal Protective Equipment has also been ordered for the campus. Plans call for students and employees to receive an individual kit that will include items such as two cloth masks and a small container of hand sanitizer. The College has added more hand sanitizer stations across campus.
UVA Wise plans to be proactive as students and employees return to campus. Additional articles will be published in coming weeks to address specific areas such as housing, athletics, dining, and other topics.