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Students to begin on-site classes Aug. 19, must complete COVID-19 education course

West Virginia University said Wednesday students at its three campuses will begin on-site fall classes Aug. 19.

All faculty, staff and students will be required to complete a COVID-19 education course before Aug. 11, the university said.

The university has been closed to the public since mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

WVU officials said students will remain on campus — with no fall break — through Nov. 24 and then depart for the Thanksgiving holiday.

They will not return to campus for the rest of the fall semester, but there will be one week of online instruction following Thanksgiving break. Finals will be conducted online.

“We have given careful consideration to the wisdom of returning to campus while the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us,” President Gordon Gee said in a statement provided by the university. “However, it is clear our students want to be with their professors and fellow Mountaineers. We are taking every precaution and making every preparation possible so they can do that safely.”

A separate and phased-in return schedule for faculty and staff will be released at a later date, WVU officials said.

Spring classes will begin on campus Jan. 19 and continue through April 30, with no spring break. Spring finals will be held May 3-7.

The university said it will require mandatory testing for the novel coronavirus for all students, staff and faculty before returning to campus in the fall. Masks will be required for people while on campus and in the classroom. Social distancing will be required, plus cleaning will be increased. There will also be limits on travel and visitation to campus.

Beginning Monday, and continuing every Tuesday for the next two months, the university will announce new information about returning to campus. It also started a new website to answer questions:

Clay Marsh, WVU vice president and executive dean for health sciences who most recently served as the coronavirus czar for West Virginia, said personal accountability will be the key to keeping not only Morgantown, but branches in Beckley and Keyser open. The most effective way to reopen safely, he said, is for everyone to wear a mask.

“West Virginians have done extremely well in flattening the curve of COVID-19,” Marsh said. “Our actions have saved lives, protected our health care providers and achieved some of the best metrics in the United States. Our rate of positive tests remains around 2%, which is amazing given our neighboring states’ rates are four to 20 times higher.”

In a separate letter to the WVU community, Gee said he was saddened, angered and frustrated about the tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

“As we look to return in the fall, we must not only focus on the health and well-being of our community, we must also focus on the need to be an inclusive, diverse and welcoming campus — one that appreciates and values each other for who we are as individuals and the singular experiences we bring,” Gee’s letter said.

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