students wearing masks attending an in-person class at V C U in September 2020
Students attend an in-person class in September. VCU will resume in-person and hybrid courses beginning March 4. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

VCU will resume in-person and hybrid classes beginning March 4

The decision is based on several factors, VCU President Michael Rao said, including an examination of COVID-19 positivity rates and a review of isolation space on campus.

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After opening the spring semester on a virtual class schedule, Virginia Commonwealth University will resume offering in-person and hybrid classes beginning March 4.

“Since the pandemic began last year, one question has guided our decisions: What is best for students, faculty and staff?” VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., said in an email to the university community Thursday. “Throughout, our goal has been to prioritize our community’s health and ensure academic, research and health care work is impacted as minimally as possible. 

“With that in mind, after careful consideration by VCU’s Public Health Response Team and the VCU Incident Command Team, VCU will offer in-person classes and hybrid courses beginning March 4,” Rao said.

Faculty are expected to follow the course modalities outlined in the university’s revised Schedule of Classes website. Students are encouraged to contact their professors with questions regarding individual classes. A full summary of Spring 2021 campus operations information is available on the One VCU: Responsible Together website and the university has published an FAQ page specific to the return to in-person learning.

Rao said VCU based its decision to resume in-person and hybrid classes “on a number of factors including an examination of COVID-19 positivity rates, a review of available on-campus isolation space, COVID-19 testing capacity and the availability of area hospital space for treating COVID-19 patients.” In their January decision to begin the semester virtually, university leaders said they would evaluate the feasibility of resuming in-person instruction by mid-February, with the hope of returning to in-person and hybrid courses by March 8. 

“Studies have shown that a virtual-only environment impacts students’ mental health,” Rao said in his message Thursday. “Safely expanding our in-person and hybrid academic offerings can help alleviate some of those impacts.” 

The university will continue its COVID-19 safety precautions from the fall semester, he said, “including mandatory mask wearing, physical distancing, enhanced disinfection of spaces, symptom monitoring, and when necessary, quarantine and isolation.”

VCU has taken additional steps this spring to promote health and safety in the university community, including making its asymptomatic surveillance testing mandatory for residential students, students who attend on-campus classes and employees who work on campus. The university also introduced Entry Pass — a digital “fast pass” to promote public health compliance — at the University Student Commons, Shafer Court, VCU Libraries (Cabell and Health Sciences) and all recreational sports facilities.

“Our community has proved that we’re responsible together in following safety and health measures — showing respect and care for each other,” Rao said. “If we continue to pull together as one VCU, responsible together, and follow health and safety protocols, COVID-19 will remain manageable in our community until the pandemic is extinguished from our world.” 

Read Rao’s full message, see VCU’s latest COVID-19 data, visit the Schedule of Classes website and learn more about the university’s ongoing COVID-19 response and VCU Health’s vaccine rollout plan.