West Virginia University offers details on upcoming spring semester

Education

Dramatic image of Woodburn Hall at West Virginia University or WVU in Morgantown WV as the sun sets behind the illuminated historic building

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The spring semester will begin Tuesday, Jan. 19, and West Virginia University is sharing details to help students, faculty and staff members stay safe and abide by the university’s guidance to protect the campuses and surrounding communities from the spread of COVID-19.

WVU health experts, including West Virginia COVID-19 Czar and Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Clay Marsh, have cautioned that the worst rise in cases has yet to come and may happen later this month. With that, all employees and students should head into the spring semester with safety at the forefront, the school said. The university states that its safety protocols, if abided by correctly, will help to keep the campus communities safe and allow students to return and continue their education successfully this spring.

Safety measures include:

  • Wearing a mask/face covering on and off campus. They are required on campus at all times— indoors and outdoors—unless in a private office/vehicle/residence hall room or while eating.
  • Practicing safe physical distancing on and off campus of six feet. Data show the majority of COVID-19 spread in the fall took place off campus, so it’s important to practice physical distancing when away from campus, as well.
  • Practicing good hand and cough hygiene. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer as needed. Cover coughs, even while wearing a mask.
  • Monitoring symptoms daily. For personal safety and the safety of other people, don’t ignore symptoms of COVID-19. People with any symptoms of COVID-19 should not report to campus for work or class. Students should call WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200. Employees should contact their primary care physician or WVU Medicine’s COVID-19 phone number at 304-598-6000 (Option 4).
  • If requested, taking a COVID-19 test as part of baseline and ongoing testing procedures.
  • Reporting positive COVID-19 test results to the university. Students should notify WVU Shared Services at 304-293-6006 or by email, and employees should notify WVU Medical Management.

Return to campus testing

To start the semester safely, all students and employees who will be on campus at any point are required to be tested for COVID-19 by Saturday, Jan. 16, according to a press release. Employee testing began last Friday, Jan. 8, and student testing began Jan. 11. Anyone who has not yet scheduled a test may do so online, but limited times are available.

The WVU Keyser and WVU Beckley campuses are conducting free return-to-campus COVID-19 testing programs separate from the Morgantown program. Students, faculty and staff members at these campuses should continue to monitor their email for additional information, the school advised.

WVU stressed that students must be tested on campus, as outside test results will not be accepted. Anyone who has had COVID-19 within the last 90 days is not required to be tested but must notify WVU Shared Services. Anyone who has been vaccinated for COVID-19 is still required to complete COVID-19 testing.

Results will be available within three days of the test, the university explained. Unlike the fall semester, students must receive a negative test result before classes start Jan. 19 or they will not be allowed into the classroom for instruction. Only people who receive negative results can be on campus. Health Sciences students who started the semester in early January were tested at that time and should follow the guidance of their dean or program director.

Anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 over the winter break and has yet to notify the university must do so, the release states. Students should notify WVU Shared Services at 304-293-6006 or by email, and employees should notify WVU Medical Management.

COVID-19 module for new, incoming students

New students starting at WVU this spring are required to take the COVID-19 education module by Saturday, Jan. 16, the university stated. Students who are returning this spring do not need to retake the module. To complete the COVID-19 module, click here. Students required to take the module received an email with more information, as well. Students are advised to check junk and spam folders for expected emails that have not been received.

Ongoing testing

Each week, at least 10% of students who will be on campus will be asked to be tested for COVID-19 as part of the university’s ongoing testing plan, according to the release. Some students and employees may be asked to test more frequently due to their involvement in certain majors, programs, residence halls, sports teams, etc. Anyone who has been selected at random to be tested will receive an email.

Students and employees may be asked to perform a self-administered RT-PCR test, WVU said. There will be trained clinical staff members to assist anyone who opts out of self-administered testing.

Ongoing testing is conducted to assess the general health of the community and if spread of COVID-19 exists. Combined with other preventive safety measures, testing provides critical data to help inform the university of overall campus safety.

In addition, the Monongalia County Health Department will offer community testing opportunities on the Morgantown campus, which the WVU community can participate in. Click here for more information.

University employees working in hybrid or in-person capacities will continue to have the option to receive a COVID-19 test weekly if desired throughout the spring semester. Tests may be scheduled online.

Academics

The semester will begin Tuesday, Jan. 19. As announced late last year, the university has made the following changes to the spring academic calendar:

  • In addition to Thursday, Feb. 11 and Wednesday, March 3, a third non-instructional day is now scheduled for Tuesday, March 2.
  • There is now a “prep day” on Monday, May 3, which was originally the first day of final exam week.
  • Final exams will now start a day later on Tuesday, May 4 and continue through the morning of Saturday, May 8.

These calendar changes are in effect for all WVU campuses, with the exception of some Health Sciences programs and other professional programs due to clinical rotation requirements, accreditation standards and other concerns. At the start of the spring semester, students should contact their program coordinators or instructors for more information.

WVU advised that faculty and students should note that these changes leave no excess instructional days in the calendar. If the university should have to close campus due to weather or other reason, instruction will be required to continue through remote learning.

For the spring semester, there will be a mix of in-person, hybrid and online-only classes. During the November registration for the spring semester, students indicated a slightly higher preference for online course offerings than previously anticipated, WVU said. A total of 67% of the registered seats are now in online sections, and 33% are in in-person sections. In online courses, 60% of registered seats are in synchronous (or real-time) sections, which is a 14% increase from the fall semester.

WVU said it offers many resources, such as tutoring, success coaching and workshops to help students be academically successful.

  • WVU tutoring centers continue to offer virtual drop-in tutoring and virtual tutoring appointments. The tutoring website provides links to the various tutoring centers across the WVU System, as well as a tool to help students identify the most appropriate center to contact for help.
  • Student success coaches work individually with students to enhance their academic success in time management, note taking, reading and study skills. To request a success coach, visit the student success website.
  • More than 50 on-demand workshops (Student Lingo) are available 24/7 and cover important topics, such as exam preparation, taking tests online and staying motivated in online learning. For more information, click here.
  • MindFit is a program offering a range of services designed to help students overcome obstacles to academic success, including enhanced academic support and coaching, as well as innovative, brain-based interventions—such as cognitive training and neurofeedback—to improve attention span, memory and cognitive functioning. For more information, including the cost of these services, click here.

As with the fall semester, the university said it will implement a traditional grading scale this spring and will not offer a high pass/pass/fail option. Students who may wish to pursue advanced education beyond college could be disadvantaged by having more than one pass/fail semester on their undergraduate transcript. The university said many academic admissions committees carefully scrutinize pass/fail grades on an applicant’s transcript.

After reviewing current travel bans and global infrastructures, such as healthcare and transportation systems, WVU has decided that faculty-led study abroad programs will not run this summer. Faculty-led programs tend to be more mobile, with participants traveling to multiple sites and cities, and require significant advance planning. Continued uncertainty around international travel serves as a significant obstacle to such planning, the release explains. Students and academic advisers who have questions about whether a long-term placement is feasible should contact the Office of Global Affairs.

Isolation and quarantine procedures

WVU’s testing program will include the use of two types of diagnostic tests during the spring semester:

  • The RT-PCR test detects the virus’s genetic material—the RNA—and is sensitive enough to need only a small amount. PCR tests can take from 24–72 hours to provide results and are regarded as the gold standard testing method.
  • Rapid antigen tests detect specific proteins from the virus and are particularly useful for rapidly identifying a person who is at or near peak infection. Generally, antigen tests provide faster results but can be less accurate asymptomatic screenings. 

WVU said using a combination of the two types of tests will help identify positive cases quickly and slow the spread of COVID-19.

The university has made slight modifications to isolation and quarantine procedures to allow for more rapid identification and separation of positive individuals, the school explained. Rapid antigen tests (same-day results) may be used on people who develop symptoms of COVID-19. If that test is positive, the person will be placed into isolation and will receive a RT-PCR test, which will confirm if a person has COVID-19.

As with the fall semester, students living in the residence halls who have COVID-19 will be isolated in Arnold Apartments or Gaskins House.

Anyone asked to quarantine for 14 days will have the opportunity to shorten the quarantine time to 10 days if that person has no symptoms during the 10-day period, receives a negative RT-PCR test result on day 6–7 and follows all safety measures—including daily symptom monitoring—through day 14. Additionally, those students living in the residence halls who are deemed to be at greatest risk of developing infection from close contact (e.g., roommates and intimate partners of positive cases) will have repeated antigen testing during their quarantine period, the release states.

COVID-19 vaccine

WVU said it began administering COVID-19 vaccines to its most at-risk employees two weeks ago and continues to do so. At this point, WVU has inoculated 240 employees. The school said it is important for people to have patience and to continue to follow COVID-19 safety measures to help protect themselves and others who may wait longer for vaccine availability.

The university will distribute vaccine doses based on state guidelines developed by the West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force. Those recommendations state that age is the primary determinant of risk for contracting and dying from the COVID-19 virus. Anyone aged 65 and older is receiving the vaccine as it becomes available. The university will continue to provide allotted doses of the vaccine as it is distributed and will communicate as additional groups are eligible, the release states.

WVU will not require the vaccine at this time for students or employees; however, all within the WVU community are encouraged to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Assuming the university receives sufficient supplies of vaccines this semester, students should also have the opportunity to receive the vaccine, the release states. As WVU is provided with additional guidance from the West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force, the university will provide instructions on how students can show interest in being vaccinated. Until then, students should continue to monitor their email and contact their primary care physicians for possible allocations that may be offered. 

WVU will send out COVID-19 vaccine interest forms via email to those in a specific age range as additional doses are available. Once completed, follow-up instructions will be sent via email with a second email to follow with a link to register on how to schedule a vaccination appointment through the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) when a dosage is available. All WVU students and employees will be vaccinated at the Student Rec Center, the release explains. Employees who have completed the COVID-19 vaccine survey but have yet to hear more will receive instructions as doses become available.

WVU Medicine employees are not included in WVU’s vaccination plans and should reach out to WVU Medicine if they have questions.

The university has updated its COVID-19 dashboard with the number of vaccine doses administered each week, as well.

For questions about vaccinations, reach out via email.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine here.

The university is also reminding employees and students about the importance of getting an influenza vaccination. Contact WVU Medicine Student Health at 304-285-7200 to schedule an appointment.

Daily wellness survey

Unlike the fall semester, the daily wellness survey will not be required for employees and students this spring. However, select groups (e.g., some Health Sciences programs) may continue to complete it as determined by those programs. Students and employees will receive communications from individual departments/units if they will continue to require completion of the survey. 

Without this daily reminder to monitor symptoms, the university said it is important that students and employees continue to self-monitor and alert their primary care physician or WVU Medicine Student Health if COVID-19 symptoms surface.

On-campus activities

Students will have limited availability to the Student Rec Center during the spring semester. Exercise and workout areas will be closed, however the Rec Center will be open for some academic classes, the release states. Since the fall, the building has been an important spot for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations and will continue to be used for those purposes throughout the spring semester. As with the fall, there will be a variety of exercise programs and equipment rentals available. Group exercise classes will begin Wednesday, Jan. 19. The schedule is available online. Self-guided workouts, offered in a variety of formats, are available on the website, as well.

WVU said it will continue the Refresh activities series this semester. Activities will begin the week of Jan. 18 and will mainly be virtual for the safety of all students. The series will include:

  • baking classes with New York Times best-selling author Dorie Greenspan
  • cooking classes with Ashley Moore from America’s Test Kitchen and Chef Lish Steiling of the Taste Curators
  • crafting classes with the Crafty Lumberjacks
  • skincare and glam-up classes with Julie Morgan, makeup artist to the stars
  • group fitness classes and more

The Craft Center will not be open as classes start; however it may open later in the semester.

Adventure WV will offer online, interactive sports events where students can learn more about popular winter outdoor pursuits, like skiing and snowboarding. Specialized group online programs are available at no cost for all recognized student organizations.

Club sports teams may meet virtually at this time, however there is no travel, in-person activities or competition permitted, the university stated. The resumption of in-person programming, including club sports’ activities, will be evaluated around Feb. 1.

WVUp All Night will return virtually on Friday and Saturday nights beginning Friday, Jan. 22. In-person activities will resume when it is determined it is safe to do so.

As students return to campus, members of the Greek community will begin preparation for virtual new member recruitment. Key dates are as follows:

  • Primary recruitment for sororities will be held Jan. 29 through Feb. 7. Potential new member orientation will be Jan. 27.
  • Interfraternity Council member organizations will begin recruitment Monday, Feb. 1.
  • The Professional Greek Council Executive Council began hosting information sessions beginning Sunday, Jan. 3.

For additional virtual Greek recruitment dates, including individual chapter information, click here.

A virtual student organization fair will take place Wednesday, Jan. 27 at noon. For additional activities, click herehere or here and watch UNEWS.

The Carruth Center is available this semester for virtual and in-person counseling services, as well.

Additional updates

Additional updates and information about the spring semester regarding details on parking, transportation, tuition, fees and more were shared in mid-November. Additional announcements can be found on the Return to Campus website.

Communications

The campus community is invited to join a Return to Campus Conversation on Thursday, Jan. 14, 10–11:30 a.m. to hear from administrators and public health experts and ask them questions.

COVID-19 questions can be submitted, or send an email for more information. Click here for the latest information, including COVID-19 dashboards, which are updated generally on weekdays.

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