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Students return to Virginia State University for 'vastly different semester'

Posted at 11:31 AM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 11:31:13-05

ETTRICK, Va. -- While many colleges and universities have shifted to online-only learning since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Virginia State University is bringing some students back to campus this spring after months of planning and preparation.

“This is not going to be the same campus that many of the students left. This is going to be a vastly different semester,” VSU's Interim Associate Vice President of Student Success and Engagement Regina Barnett-Tyler said.

And that difference has everything to do with implementing an array of health and safety protocols at Virginia State University due to the coronavirus.

This week, students, faculty, and staff returned to VSU as they prepare for the Feb. 1 start of the spring semester.

Unlike the fall where it was all virtual learning, students will be back to an in-person and remote classes as well on-campus living with several new guidelines they’ve administered.

“We normally have a housing occupancy of about 2300 students and we are now reduced to 1500 students so that all of our students have a single occupancy so they don’t have to worry about double rooms or doubling spacing,” Barnett-Tyler said.

Some the upgrades the university has made and the materials they are distributing are part of a nearly $3 million investment.

“In the PPE kit, they have gloves, they have wipes, hand sanitizer, there’s a thermometer, a digital thermometer, and a door grabber,” Barnett-Tyler said explained.

Students will also receive two COVID tests on their scheduled move-in day. A rapid test where they learn their results in 15 minutes and PCR-test where their results come 48 hours later.

“We have created the Trojan COVID cares team that actually will respond if we have a positive case, moving a student into a quarantined space, getting them meals, getting them water, and things they’re going to need while there in quarantine,” Barnett-Tyler said.

Some of the safety measures the university has taken may not be visible.

Jane Harris, VSU's Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Capital Outlay, says several pieces of equipment have be installed around campus to provide a robust level of preventative maintenance.

Items like HEPA filters, dry hydrogen machines, ionization devices, and dehumidifiers have been placed in buildings, classrooms, and dorms.

“We are as confident as we can be. We know we have done the best that we can to make this campus safe to take care of these students, and the faculty, and the staff,” Harris said.

The move in plan has scheduled just under 200 students to return per day over the course of the week to avoid crowding.

And as much preparation that has gone into getting ready for the spring semester, Barnett-Tyler says she hopes it will quell some of fears about coronavirus, a disease that has disproportionately affected African Americans.

“The fear is real," Barnett-Tyler said. "And we may not be able to address all the fears, but we are doing our absolute best to put all the safety protocols in place.”

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