WVU pushes back start date; announces ‘phased return’ amid student testing efforts
West Virginia University said Monday afternoon it will employ a phased return to its Morgantown campus as a COVID-19 safety precaution.
The first day of in-person classes in Morgantown was pushed back a week to Aug. 26. WVU branch campuses in Keyser and Beckley are not affected by the decision.
Monongalia County has the highest total number of COVID-19 cases in West Virginia with 822, with the 20 to 29 age group most infected at 23.2%, the state Department of Health and Human Resources said.
Of those, 158 are listed as active.
“There is concern among local and state public health officials, as well as university leadership, that a full return to campus in Morgantown would place both the campus and local communities at a greater risk for an increase in positive cases and transmission rates,” said WVU President Gordon Gee, who announced the decision in a letter to the campus community. “If this were to occur, the probability of an online semester would escalate.”
As part of the plan to delay the start of the semester by one week, Gee said the move-in dates into campus residence halls are now scheduled for Aug. 15-22. An email will be sent to students explaining how to select a new date. WVU-operated apartments — Apartments at Vandalia, University Place, University Park and College Park — will be available for move-in Aug. 1.
Students who move in Aug. 15, or later, will receive a 6.42% reduction in room and board costs and a 6.36% reduction in meal plan costs, WVU said on Twitter.
Online courses that are part of an online degree program will begin Aug. 19, as originally scheduled. WVU said students who move from in-person courses to an all online-format will only be charged $220 in student fees, $440 less than the standard fee amount.
Because of the one-week delay, the majority of upper-division undergraduate classes will be transitioned to online, or hybrid delivery. Labs, clinical and studio classes may still be offered face-to-face, depending on the program. A final academic schedule will be released Aug. 5.
Gee’s letter said students may make changes to their schedules up to the first week of classes.
All students attending classes on campus in Morgantown will still leave Nov. 25, as originally scheduled, and not return until Jan. 19, when spring semester is set to start. Fall semester instruction will be completed online.
December commencement, scheduled for Dec. 19, will be virtual. Additional information will be posted at a future date.
“It is good to have an understanding of what the fall semester will look like because there was so much uncertainty,” said Joey Georgy, a junior political science major from Wheeling, after reading Gee’s letter. “Unfortunately for many of us upperclassmen who live in off-campus housing, we still have to pay rent though we will not be living there.”
Supervisors currently are notifying employees whether they are going to be returning to campus or working from home. Employees who are working on campus this fall are expected to take a COVID-19 test by Aug. 15 and are expected to monitor themselves for the virus.
WVU said employees who are working remotely are expected to complete a telecommuting agreement. It was not disclosed what the agreement includes.
Monday was also the first day of COVID-19 testing of students returning to the Morgantown campus. WVU said it went smoothly with about 1,200 students scheduled for testing.
“This was the first time I was tested. It’s a little painful, but I understand why they’re doing it,” first-year social work graduate student Lauren Seggie of Morgantown, said Monday morning at the Student Rec Center.
“It was good to get tested,” said Zachary Martin, a graduate student from Berkeley County.
WVU is spending $4 million to get students, faculty and staff tested. In Morgantown, results on 1,531 faculty and staff tested last week came back, said Erin Newmeyer, WVU’s director of projects for Strategic Initiatives.
“Three came back positive, she said. “That’s less than a .02% positive rate. That’s a good sign for the community,” she said.
WVU students, faculty and staff should have their test results back in three to five days, the university has said.