June 22, 2024

Changes Coming in Spring 2021

A message from the COVID-19 Co-coordinators.

Return to Campus in Spring 2021

As we reflect on the experience of this most unusual fall semester, especially the ten-week on-campus period, we are encouraged by the UMW community’s commitment to public health measures and compliance with the University’s COVID-19 policies and protocols. Together, the UMW community – students, staff and faculty — did a great job! Because of your hard work and shared sacrifice, we were fortunate not to face the challenges that we have witnessed on other campuses.

Successful completion of the Spring 2021 semester will require us to do it again by recommitting to the things (including MMDC!) which limit the spread of the coronavirus in our community. And though the news on the vaccine front is encouraging, anticipated vaccination projections are unlikely to be cause for a return to normal operations during the spring semester. The prospects for normalcy appear much brighter for Fall 2021.

Consequently, our spring 2021 return to campus plan will be very much like the fall of 2020. The highlights are as follows:

  • Academic Calendar: The academic calendar for Spring remains as announced. The first day of classes will be Monday, January 25, there will be no Spring Break, and the 2021 scheduled Commencement will immediately follow exams on Saturday, May 8. There will be two planned days with no classes on Wednesday, March 10, and Tuesday, March 16. All classes will be cancelled on those two days. A three-week January term has been added for this year only, given the delayed start previously announced.
  • Course offerings and classrooms: January and spring term course schedules can be found at the Registrar’s website. January term courses will be fully online. Spring course modalities will be very much like fall term offerings (approximately 60% online, 25% hybrid, and 15% face-to-face). Classroom setups, configurations, and room capacities as determined by 8 feet for social distancing will remain in place for the spring.
  • Enhanced testing: The most significant change for the spring semester will involve an increase in testing as a result of increased availability and a change in public health recommendations since the fall regarding the efficacy of testing asymptomatic individuals by institutions of higher education. This will include (1) entry testing for every residential and commuter student who intends to access campus in the spring semester, (2) increased prevalence testing which will more than double the number of prevalence tests administered in fall 2020, and (3) exit testing for students who seek it at the end of the semester.
  • Move-in and entry testing: Returning residential students are scheduled to move back on either Saturday, January 23 or Sunday, January 24. New students will move-in Thursday, January 21. Testing will take place in the Anderson Center and a negative rapid antigen test will be required for access to UMW residence halls. Sign-up information will be distributed by January 5.
  • Off-campus students and entry testing. All students who live off-campus but who wish to access campus for class or utilize campus facilities (e.g. the HCC, Fitness Center, University Center, Library) will be required to take an entry test which will be available in the Anderson Center on Monday, January 25 and Tuesday, January 26. Sign up information will be distributed by January 5.
  • Gathering limits: Gathering limits, which were stated as ten people by UMW policy (outside of in-person class activities) in the fall semester, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
  • Returning to Fredericksburg: This spring, the entire campus will need to renew its commitment not to travel or attend functions in which individuals from multiple households come together. Nearly every one of the positive cases to appear on campus in the fall were traced to travel and large gatherings.
  • Daily attestation: All students and employees are expected to complete the Eagle Health Survey as in the fall. Between now and January, the survey will continue to be distributed (without follow-up messaging or tracking). Full attestation and follow up will resume for employees on January 4 and January 7 for students.
  • Training and education: All students and employees are expected to complete a new educational and training module which applies for the spring semester. Employees will receive information for completion on January 5 and students will receive this information on January 7.
  • Indoor dining: The tents on Ball Circle have been removed due to the risk of snow, and most dining will continue to be “grab and go.” However, UMW Dining has been working to provide some limited indoor seating capacity in the UC where students can reserve a space to have a socially distanced meal with members of their family unit.
  • Family unit: For Spring 2021, a “residential” or “family unit” will be defined as two or more students who live together in a residence hall room, suite, apartment unit, or house on or off-campus and they are generally limited to no more than four people.
  • Those living in family units are committed to each other’s health and safety and actively strive to protect the “family” by minimizing risky behaviors. While good hygiene and regular monitoring through daily attestation in the Eagle Health Survey are always required, social distancing and face coverings may be relaxed within a unit when in private settings or when dining in approved locations.
  • Functional groups used by athletic teams are not considered family units, although some student athletes within an athletic group may be in the same residential unit.
  • Outdoor spaces: Because there is compelling evidence that outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is much less likely in controlled settings, outdoor spaces on the Fredericksburg campus will continue to be upgraded to support small, socially distanced gatherings.
  • Travel restrictions: Current travel restrictions will remain in place through at least April 30, including limitations on the number of individuals in vehicles (one) and a prohibition on use of state funds for overnight travel.
  • Updated “Things you CAN do!”: As we heard from students this fall, we spent a lot of time talking about what cannot or should not be done. Known as The List, we will continue to publicize in a centralized location and across various platforms awesomely cool things students can do this spring!

Jeff McClurken and Tim O’Donnell (COVID-19 Co-coordinators) & the COVID-19 Implementation Team

UMW Proceeds With Plans for In-Person Learning

Welcoming students back to campus is the right decision for Mary Washington. That’s what UMW President Troy Paino said in a video released late yesterday, in which he announced that, following a three-week delay of in-person classes, students will begin returning to campus on Sept. 10 and to limited in-person learning on Sept. 14.

UMW President Troy Paino
UMW President Troy Paino

“I will state the obvious,” Paino said in the nearly 19-minute video. “There is no consensus on how to proceed.”

He said he made the painstaking decision after conferring with medical experts, presidential colleagues, parents and others, always keeping the health and wellbeing of students, faculty, staff and area residents foremost in mind. He made the call, he said, for two primary reasons: his belief in the commitment of UMW students and University community members to make personal sacrifices for the greater good, and his confidence in a strong and adaptable plan thoroughly developed by faculty, staff and administrators throughout the past six months.

With an effective, widely available vaccine as far away as 18 months, Paino said, he was forced to weigh the risks of bringing students back to Mary Washington against those of going fully remote, foregoing the meaningful relationships and self-discovery that come with campus life.

“We cannot put this generation on hold for that long,” said Paino, the father of a college student and a recent college graduate. “They need to see that despite the challenges this virus presents, we can move forward with our lives.” Read more.