three VCU students wearing masks sit at a table in Monroe Park
VCU anticipates the Monroe Park and MCV campuses will be fully operational this fall. Health and safety measures — including face coverings and daily health monitoring — are likely to continue. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

VCU anticipates higher percentage of in-person classes, continued health and safety measures this fall

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Virginia Commonwealth University’s plans for the fall semester are beginning to take shape.

The university anticipates that both the Monroe Park and MCV campuses will be fully operational this fall, though capacity in most buildings may still need to be reduced amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Health and safety measures — including face coverings and daily health monitoring — are also likely to continue, university leaders said Monday.

“This past year has taught us so much; primarily that as One VCU: Responsible Together, we can persevere through anything, including a global pandemic,” wrote Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; Arthur Kellermann, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences at VCU and CEO of VCU Health System; Charles Klink, Ph.D., senior vice provost for student affairs; and Meredith L. Weiss, Ph.D., vice president for administration, in letters to students and university employees. 

“We are preparing for an engaging on-campus experience this fall that will show how being responsible together allows us to be better together,” they said.

Details of VCU’s fall semester plans have been published online. Among the notable details, the university’s fall 2021 schedule of classes is now available and registration will open April 26. In their emails Monday, Hackett, Kellermann, Klink and Weiss said the fall semester will include a higher percentage of in-person classes, with a mix of hybrid classes and online-only classes. In their email to university employees, Hackett, Kellermann and Weiss said VCU — with input from faculty and staff — is considering how to balance the future of remote work with the need to provide students an engaged and impactful campus experience. Over the next several months, they said, VCU leaders anticipate issuing updated guidelines for work arrangements.

VCU is also working on creating guidelines for campus events. The university’s first in-person commencement ceremonies in more than a year will take place at the unit level in May. And over the summer, VCU will launch a series of virtual town halls on a variety of topics related to the fall semester.

Hackett, Kellermann, Klink and Weiss said VCU’s plans are being shaped by several factors, including vaccine distribution and responses to surveys delivered in recent weeks to students and employees regarding their views for the fall semester. About two-thirds of faculty and staff who completed surveys said that, with favorable pandemic conditions and continuing safety precautions, they are agreeable to a mix of in-person and online work. Similarly, two-thirds of students who completed surveys said they want to attend a mix of in-person and online classes if pandemic conditions are favorable and safety precautions continue.

In the coming months, Hackett, Kellermann, Klink and Weiss said, VCU leaders will continue to monitor the state of COVID-19 and vaccinations, as well as the advice of public health experts — including those on VCU’s Public Health Response Team

“As we have learned throughout this past year, we must remain flexible as circumstances may change and require the university to adjust its plans,” they wrote. In addition to remaining flexible, we must all continue to be vigilant in our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Continuing to do so in the months ahead will help lead us to a fall semester that is better because we’re together.”