West Virginia University’s fall 2021 semester begins on Wednesday, Aug. 18. While many public health guidelines will remain in effect, there is much hope that we can return to a vibrant campus environment.
Since the pandemic is not yet over, the University community must remain diligent, keeping the safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty, staff and surrounding communities at the forefront. The COVID-19 vaccines have provided light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Active case counts and positivity rates on campus and in our communities continue to decline – in large part due to the number of people who are getting vaccinated.
Despite these advancements, highly transmissible variants of the COVID-19 virus are affecting the younger population who may not be vaccinated and are causing increased hospitalization rates among the college-age population.
This gives us a clearer picture of what the fall semester could look like.
Our priority for the fall semester is simple: We want to ensure in-person instruction for our students so they can enjoy the full college experience.
The measures being instituted are designed to enable a return to full capacity on campus and in the classroom. These plans are preliminary and may be adjusted based on infection rates and the health status of our University and local communities as we near the start of the fall semester.
Finalized plans will be shared throughout the summer, and specific concerns will be addressed in Campus Conversations and targeted communication. Please continue to monitor enews.wvu.edu and MOUNTAINEER E-News, as well as students.wvu.edu and UNews for updates.
Get Your COVID-19 Vaccine
Our best defense against COVID-19 is for everyone to get vaccinated. Striving for community immunity allows us to begin to open our campuses and resume activities and events.
Our goal is to ultimately reach an 80% vaccination rate for the University community, which includes students, faculty and staff. If we can reach targeted milestones of increased vaccination rates, we will be able to relax certain restrictions and allow specified activities to resume, such as student organization and club activities, intramural sports, the Rec Center and more.
Vaccine clinics are available at WVU’s Morgantown campus, as well as in the community. The Beckley and Keyser campuses will no longer operate vaccine clinics. Students, faculty and staff at these campuses who have yet to be vaccinated should visit the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources website or vaccines.gov to find local options.
WVU health experts, including West Virginia COVID-19 Czar and Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Clay Marsh, remind us that young people are far more likely to get the COVID-19 variants that may make them sicker and that vaccines are highly effective at reducing severe complications which include people being hospitalized, in the ICU, on a ventilator or dying.
At this time, WVU is not requiring vaccination, but it is strongly recommended. As the Emergency Use Authorizations are lifted by the Food and Drug Administration, the University may consider requiring COVID-19 vaccines for those who are not medically exempted.
Campus Health and Safety Protocols
The University plans to follow all health and safety protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on all campuses. The University also anticipates current policies will remain in effect at the start of the semester for things such as mask-wearing, contact tracing, quarantining and travel. The University will continuously monitor public health guidance and disease transmission rates to make final determinations on these policies in the weeks ahead.
The fall semester will begin as scheduled on Wednesday, Aug. 18 (view the full 2021-22 Academic Calendar). We fully anticipate that educational opportunities and research activities will operate in-person and at full capacity, consistent with pre-pandemic levels. As determined by faculty and academic leaders, some courses may include hybrid components, given recent classroom technology enhancements. While we will continue to offer online courses, as is standard in a typical semester, our priority is to return to in-person instruction this fall.
To ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff, we will continue to follow public health guidance mentioned above to start the fall semester. This includes wearing masks in the classrooms, taking attendance and using seating charts to aid in contact tracing as needed. Plexiglass also will be available in the classrooms for faculty to use.
The Office of Accessibility Services will continue to work with students who request reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Medical Management and the University’s ADA coordinator will continue to work with faculty and staff who request reasonable accommodations under ADA.
As with the spring semester, the University will implement a traditional grading scale and will not offer a high pass/pass/fail option. We trust our faculty to teach and grade students effectively. Students who may wish to pursue advanced education and competitive job openings beyond college could be disadvantaged by having more than one pass/fail semester on their undergraduate transcript. The University knows that many academic admissions committees carefully scrutinize pass/fail grades on an applicant’s transcript.
The Office of Global Affairs will continue to review and evaluate any proposed study abroad trips on a case-by-case basis, allowing for appropriate travel preparation. Factors will include relevant State Department and CDC alert levels, and the ability of host institutions and locations to provide a valuable and meaningful experience to our students. Any member of the University community (faculty, staff or student) who chooses to travel outside the country for any reason should register their travel at https://international.wvu.edu/travel/registration to ensure they receive necessary travel alerts and can receive available support.
The Personal Rapid Transit system will resume operations for the fall semester beginning Aug. 2. The PRT will operate with vehicle capacity limits based on the University’s overall vaccination rates.
Passengers must follow health and safety measures when riding the PRT which include wearing face masks before entering the PRT station area and in the PRT car. Occupancy guidelines will be outlined to allow for physical distancing. And when disembarking, riders should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as soon as possible and before removing their mask/covering.
Mountain Line buses will operate throughout the summer to transport students and employees between the Downtown, Evansdale and Health Sciences areas of campus. Visit the Mountain Line website for routes and schedules.
The University also will run a limited number of buses during the summer on a modified Country Roads Loop with an additional stop at Evansdale Crossing. WVU buses will operate weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Note: The last pick-up time will occur at 6 p.m.
In addition to PRT and Mountain Line services, the University plans to continue to run buses on the modified Country Roads Loop at the beginning of the semester. WVU will evaluate continued operations of bus service this fall based on ridership and the operational needs of the University.
Passengers on WVU and Mountain Line buses are required to wear face masks/coverings and follow all health and safety guidelines.
The Rec Center will be open with safety guidelines. Many areas and programs, including weight and fitness equipment, climbing wall, aquatics and group fitness classes will be available with limits on capacity. Initial estimates are less than 20%, with approximately 60 students per hour in the fitness floors, 20 students per hour in the pools, 20 per hour in fitness classes when offered and additional students in the climbing area. Increased (or decreased) capacity and access to additional facilities will be based upon vaccination and infection rates. Most activities or equipment will require advance reservations.
Students will likely be able to participate in outdoor Intramural Sports including flag football, soccer, and softball, among others. A determination on which sports and how many participants are allowed will be made early in the fall semester.
Club Sports may resume practice and conditioning sessions, competitions and travel. While there will be restrictions in place, clubs can, in general, anticipate fewer restrictions on activities and an increased number of members who can participate than those at the end of spring 2021 semester.
WVUp All Night activities will be in-person at limited capacity with safety measures in place with a limited number of virtual offerings. While most activities will be at the Mountainlair, some special events may be offered on Evansdale.
Safety protocols will be developed so that student organizations can safely meet. Activities such as information fairs, club meetings, recruitment events and social gatherings may be held if health and safety guidelines are followed. Space may be reserved in the Mountainlair and other on-campus event venues. Student Engagement and Leadership will have additional information before classes resume.
The University is developing a Welcome Week experience that allows for safe engagement based on health and safety protocols for the fall. Details will be announced in the summer.
Residence Halls and Dining Services
Residence Hall move-in will begin Monday, Aug. 9 and continue through Saturday, Aug. 14. Residents will register online for a 90-minute time slot for move-in; time slots are available each day at each hall. Each resident may have two helpers, and everyone will be expected to wear a mask/face covering and follow health and safety protocols in place. Residents will be notified via MIX email and University announcements when timeslot registration opens in early July.
WVU Dining Services plans to reopen fully in the fall and will work to keep our guests and employees safe. Self-served buffet options will be open with gloves available for use when handling multi-use serving utensils. Enhanced cleaning procedures will continue to ensure guests stay safe.
All students, faculty and staff will be required to take the COVID-19 education module before the start of the fall semester. It will contain updated information, so it is important to review this module. Details on when the module is available will be shared this summer.
Campus Operations for Staff
To prepare for a planned increase in on-campus operations for the fall semester, supervisors will be asked to confirm or update the long-term work arrangements for their direct reports in the Applaud HR system. These arrangements include:
- Remote Work Schedule – Employees will work remotely at all times. However, these employees occasionally may be on-site for a meeting or to attend a University function or event. A remote worker typically will not maintain a designated physical office or cubicle space on campus.
- Hybrid Work Schedule – Employees will work on-site for a specified number of days each week on a regular schedule. The scheduled days the employee works on-site may vary from week to week.
- On-site Work Schedule – Employees will work on-site at a WVU campus or location in a dedicated workspace on a regular schedule.
Prior to May 31, supervisors should ensure the work status information in Applaud aligns with feedback captured through the Performance Review process regarding an employee’s long-term work arrangement. If supervisors have questions or need to validate the preferred work arrangement for their direct reports, they should consult their HR partner. More information will be shared with supervisors in the coming days.
The information captured in Applaud will be used to prepare Telecommuting Agreements for employees who plan to continue working in a remote or hybrid capacity. The University plans to begin rolling out updated Telecommuting Agreements in early summer, and each employee will work with their supervisor to establish an effective date for their agreement.
The work status information in Applaud also will be used as the University begins to reconfigure the workspace within many campus buildings and introduce programs, policies and services in the coming months that are specific to remote or hybrid employees. Examples of these efforts include:
- Developing updated policies on reimbursable expenses for remote and hybrid employees.
- Deploying a special parking program for hybrid employees that may include a daily parking pass/rate versus an annual pass/monthly rate.
- WVU is unable to provide a stipend towards home internet costs for remote and hybrid employees. However, we are exploring potential opportunities for limited discounts from local internet service providers. Similarly, we are looking at potential cell phone and office supply discounts with vendors for remote employees.
- Examining the Safe Streets and Safe Community Service Fee for employees who work in a remote capacity and reside outside Morgantown city limits.
In addition to following health and safety protocols, all meetings must continue to include an option for remote participation (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams, conference line, etc.) to accommodate remote and hybrid employees and promote physical distancing. Employees should use personal discretion when deciding whether to attend a meeting in-person or remotely.
Given the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, effective treatments, vaccines and state and federal guidelines, WVU is reviewing the need for employee Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations and non-ADA modifications specific to COVID-19 for the 2021-2022 academic year.
Reasonable ADA accommodations and non-ADA modifications will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Employees requesting an ADA accommodation or a non-ADA modification for the fall semester must submit the application and updated medical documentation by June 1.
Note: Employees who previously had an accommodation or modification should be aware that future adjustments may differ from past or current accommodations. Visit go.wvu.edu/coronavirus-modifications for more information. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Vaccine Certification System and Reduction of COVID-19 Protocols
Having accurate information about how many people are vaccinated is critical to establishing appropriate health and safety protocols for our community going forward. It will guide decision-making on what aspects of our campus we can reopen. While many members of our campus community have received their COVID-19 vaccine through the University’s clinics, several students, faculty and staff have been vaccinated elsewhere in a community clinic or at their local pharmacy.
WVU has launched a COVID-19 Vaccine Verification System for students, faculty and staff. All students, faculty and staff who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 must verify their vaccination with the University by Aug. 1. Those who do not complete the verification process will be considered unvaccinated this fall.
You can access the Vaccine Verification System and complete the acknowledgment form via StarRez (WVU’s housing portal): myhousing.wvu.edu. View full instructions on the Return to Campus website. There will be a page that shows the current vaccination rate of the campus community. The page will be updated every Tuesday.
In addition to the health benefits, if you are fully vaccinated and let us know that you are, the following will apply:
- immunized individuals will not be required to undergo campus re-entry testing in the fall;
- immunized individuals will not be required to undergo surveillance testing during the semester;
- immunized individuals will not be required to quarantine if they are exposed to someone else with COVID; and
- immunized individuals will not be required to quarantine following travel.
Additionally, the more students and employees are vaccinated and the closer we get to community immunity, the more likely it is we keep our rates of infection low and we can continue reducing the COVID-19 protocols in place and have more activity on campus, beginning Sept. 1.
Once 50% of our students and employees become fully vaccinated (either with one dose of Johnson & Johnson or two doses of Pfizer and Moderna) and have verified that vaccination to the University, we plan to take these steps:
- the Rec Center will be open at 50% capacity with reservations;
- Up All Night will be open at 50% capacity;
- concerts, shows, and plays will be open at 50% capacity; and
- the PRT will run with a maximum of six passengers.
Once 60% of our students and employees become fully vaccinated (either with one dose of Johnson & Johnson or two doses of Pfizer and Moderna) and have verified that vaccination to the University, we plan to take these steps:
- the Rec Center will be open at 75% capacity with reservations;
- Up All Night will be open at 75% capacity; and
- concerts, shows and plays will be open at 75% capacity;
- the PRT will run with a maximum of eight passengers;
- non-contact intramural sports will resume;
- outdoor sports activities like volleyball and basketball will resume;
- Fall Family Weekend will be conducted in person;
- student organizations will have the ability to host social events, conduct blood drives and coordinate and participate in community service activities;
- visitation in the residence halls will be open to all WVU students;
- groups of 10 or less may congregate outdoors without masks on University property; and
- fraternities and sororities may host in-person recruitment.
Once 75% of our students and employees become fully vaccinated (either with one dose of Johnson & Johnson or two doses of Pfizer and Moderna) and have verified that vaccination to the University, we plan to take these steps:
- the Rec Center will be open at 100%;
- Up All Night will be open at full capacity;
- concerts, shows and plays will be open at full capacity;
- the PRT will run with a maximum of 12 passengers;
- contact intramural sports will resume;
- all sports activities will resume;
- residence hall fitness centers will open;
- plexiglass dividers will largely be removed from dining halls;
- Homecoming activities will be conducted in person; and
- Welcome Week activities will be held in larger groups.
WVU will host a vaccine clinic on Friday, May 7 from 1-4 p.m. at the Student Rec Center in the upper gym. Anyone interested in receiving a Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer or Moderna vaccine may walk in on a first-come, first-served basis. Both first and second doses will be offered for Pfizer and Moderna.
The University will also continue to partner with the state to offer COVID-19 vaccines on campus throughout the summer.
We also understand there are those who may be hesitant. We strongly urge those who have concerns to speak to a health care provider to learn more about the vaccine. There is a lot of misinformation circulating, particularly on social media, and the best way to address concerns is by speaking to a medical professional.
The campus community is invited to join a Return to Campus Conversation on Thursday, May 6, from 10-11:30 a.m. to hear from administrators and public health experts and ask them questions.
Questions also can be submitted, or email email@example.com for more information. Visit https://www.wvu.edu/return-to-campus for the latest information, including COVID-19 dashboards, which are updated weekly.
Additional updates about the fall semester will be shared throughout the coming weeks. Additional announcements can be found on the Return to Campus website.
CONTACT: April Kaull, Executive Director of Communications
Call 1-855-WVU-NEWS for the latest West Virginia University news and information from WVUToday.Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.