University extends spring break, moves classes online, and more in response to COVID-19
March 11, 2020
Dear members of the Virginia Tech community:
While there are currently no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Southwest Virginia, it is our obligation to do all we can to limit the spread of the disease and protect the members of our extended community, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
Based on the trajectory of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease in communities around the world, it is very likely that cases of COVID-19 will appear in population centers throughout the U.S. There are confirmed cases in the vicinity of other Virginia Tech facilities, and we expect that the disease will continue to spread to our many communities.
Our campus administrators, public health experts, and community leaders have been continuously engaged in monitoring the situation in Blacksburg, across Virginia, and around the world.
In consultation with our partners in the Virginia Department of Health, we are adopting a range of principle-based actions, effective immediately. We are confident that these actions will lower the risk to our communities. In this update, I will focus on our preparation and plans for the coming weeks.
Academics and classroom instruction
Following guidance from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, and our own public health and safety experts to limit the spread of the disease, we are transitioning to online and remote instruction (Zoom, video, and other forms of delivery) for all undergraduate and graduate students at all Virginia Tech locations for the remainder of the spring semester. In order to provide time for students and faculty to make this transition, spring break will be extended to Sunday, March 22, and classes will resume on Monday, March 23. The Blacksburg campus remains open now and will remain open after spring break ends. However, starting March 23, students will take their courses online.
For our undergraduate students, anyone with an individual concern related to the transition to online instruction should contact the Office of the Dean of Students at email@example.com or 540-231-3787.
For our graduate students, all academic programs and courses at the Northern Virginia Center (in Falls Church) and the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC) will move to online delivery. Students and faculty are asked to prepare to use the available technology tools to stay connected. Additionally, students in clinical and professional graduate programs will be contacted directly by their college or department. In the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, students are already scheduled for spring break during the week of March 16-20, and college officials will communicate directly with students as details are finalized. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC will each communicate directly with their respective students and researchers.
For our faculty and instructors, we ask you to be as flexible as possible in accommodating the needs of students. Resources are available to assist in transitions to online formats. Please work with your department chair or head, program director, or dean to coordinate and communicate the plans for adjusting instruction.
We recognize the challenge that this presents to our faculty and instructors. We know these decisions will cause disruptions in the instructional environment. Students will miss out on the enormous value of face-to-face instruction and on the camaraderie of their peers. Our Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies department is collaborating with partners across campus to provide additional resources to assist faculty and staff in delivering their courses online, including finding alternative means of instruction for lab courses as required. Faculty members will reach out directly to students as plans for individual classes are completed.
While these decisions will cause disruptions in the instructional environment, we believe these steps are necessary if we are to be responsive to the recommendations of public health officials regarding how best to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health of our community, especially for the most vulnerable among us.
University events at all Virginia Tech locations
We are canceling all Virginia Tech-sponsored events at any location that are scheduled prior to April 30 and that are expected to draw crowds larger than 100 people.
We will regularly evaluate events beyond April 30 and announce such decisions as they are made. At this point, we anticipate that commencement events in May will proceed as scheduled. However, should a change be needed, we will convey that decision with as much advance notice as possible.
Events that are affected by this decision include (but are not limited to):
- Principles of Community Week events
- Ring Dance
- Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference
- The Big Event
- Relay For Life
- The 3.2-Mile Run in Remembrance
- Caldwell March
- Spring Family Weekend
- Black Alumni Reunion
- Regional campaign events
- Ut Prosim Society Weekend
- Hokie Focus
- Spring Open House
Beyond these, cancellations apply to any Virginia Tech event expecting a turnout of more than 100 people at any location through April 30.
- Admissions: The Virginia Tech Office of Undergraduate Admissions is following the direction of the university and canceling the spring Open House, Hokie Focus, Gateway, High School Spring Break, special group visits, and all daily visits. We are creating a series of virtual Hokie experiences and we will be sharing details as soon they are ready. Registrants for all events will receive emailed instructions on how to participate.
- Moss Arts Center: The Moss Arts Center is currently evaluating the remaining scheduled performances and events and will communicate information to patrons and the community as decisions are made.
- Athletic events: In accordance with the ACC and university officials, at this time, athletic events will continue as scheduled. Athletic Director Whit Babcock is currently reviewing specific guidelines for spectator participation for each and every event.
- For events that are expected to draw fewer than 100 participants, event stakeholders and planners are strongly encouraged to follow public safety guidelines put forth by the Virginia Department of Health and the principles set forth by the university. For questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Event sponsors should review all events and consider canceling events in accordance with the principles outlined above. Planners are encouraged to reevaluate invitations to outside speakers for conferences, seminars, or other public events. Facility administrators who have made their spaces available to non-university entities are encouraged to follow public health guidelines in accordance with the Virginia Department of Health.
Overseas operations and study abroad
Virginia Tech is canceling all summer 2020 international credit-bearing programs and co-curricular and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. This difficult decision addresses both the public health concerns and the challenges of planning ahead. The university will work with students to mitigate the impact on academic programs or progression to graduation that occurs from the summer program cancellation or an in-semester disruption to instruction. For students who cannot attend summer study/travel opportunities due to a cancellation, we will work with students to identify future opportunities and we will work with academic advisors to make these arrangements.
For Virginia Tech students currently enrolled in programs/courses being taught at international locations and who wish to return to the U.S., the university will provide incremental financial support for travel expenses. We will work to keep students on track with their academic progress.
We remain steadfastly committed to study abroad and international opportunities. These experiences closely align with our land-grant ideals, and we will return to them with renewed energy as soon as possible.
At this time, the Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, remains open; resources and infrastructure there are sufficient to continue operations and academic instruction. Faculty and students throughout Switzerland must restrict themselves to in-country travel. We will update this guidance as conditions change.
Until further notice, we are imposing a moratorium on all university-sponsored domestic and international travel. All members of the Virginia Tech community are being discouraged from any non-critical domestic or international travel, whether personal or professional. Questions regarding travel and scheduled conferences/events impacted by a cancellation should be routed to the appropriate vice president or dean.
Students, faculty, and staff who have arrived or will be returning from a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 travel notice area or other areas of risk identified by the university, whether studying abroad, teaching, conducting research, or on spring break, should complete the following Virginia Tech Emergency Management form to share self-quarantine plans with the university. Alternatively, university community members can share these details over the phone at 540-231-4600.
Travelers returning from Level 2 or 3 travel notice areas must not return to a Virginia Tech campus or facility until they can demonstrate that they show no symptoms associated with COVID-19 — cough, fever, shortness of breath — for a period of 14 days from the date of entering/reentering the U.S.
Operations in Blacksburg, Roanoke, Northern Virginia, and across Virginia
Campuses and sites in Blacksburg, Roanoke, Northern Virginia, and across the commonwealth remain open and operational. Faculty and staff should come to work, albeit with allowances for those who are experiencing symptoms (whether it’s the common cold, flu, or COVID-19) or who have unique considerations. Those with concerns should contact their supervisor.
The Division of IT and TLOS offer useful resources for telecommuting and working remotely that are available to Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff. We recommend that you stay in touch with your department IT support staff and your department leadership for guidance on best practices and resources for working remotely.
Health and wellbeing
If you or someone you live with is immunosuppressed or a member of a high-risk group as defined by the CDC, we advise that you refrain from public contact to the extent possible. If you are exhibiting any symptoms of a respiratory disease, including the flu or a common cold, please do not attend campus activities or come to work.
- Individuals who are experiencing symptoms or who are vulnerable because of preexisting conditions should contact Schiffert Health Center at email@example.com or 540-231-6444 for directions.
- If you are a student, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-231-3787 to discuss accommodations.
- If you are a campus employee, please contact email@example.com for guidance on leave policies, some of which have been updated for this situation.
For our students, and indeed every member of our community, we ask you take responsibility for limiting the spread of disease, whether it is the flu, common cold, COVID-19, or something else. Please consult this advice from the CDC. Your health and the health of fellow Hokies are our first priority. If you find that you are conflicted in making a decision about attending an event, participating in online classes, residing in the residence halls, or another situation, choose the option that is best for your health and the health of those around you. We will do everything possible to ensure that these changes do not impact your academic progress.
Students are asked not to return to campus during the extended spring break, March 16-20. Dining halls and residence halls will be operational after March 20. If you have concerns about living or dining arrangements, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-231-3787.
For administrators at all levels, please develop and communicate local, unit-level decisions to stakeholders, consistent with the principles outlined above.
Working groups with representation from across the university, from academics to public health to emergency management, will continue collaborating with our partners in the Virginia Department of Health and other agencies.
As we review information and make decisions in real-time, and we will update you as often as needed. Instructions and information may evolve rapidly, so please consult our COVID-19 website for further information, updates, event statuses, and answers to frequently asked questions.
To every member of our community, thank you for your extraordinary efforts to protect your health and the health of others, while maintaining the continuity of university life and operations to the extent possible.
The spirit of community is one of Virginia Tech’s most remarkable strengths, and while our renowned ability to gather in large numbers will be curtailed this spring, our spirit of serving and caring for others can be expressed just as strongly through our actions to protect our community.
In the spirit of Ut Prosim,