Gov. Justice holds virtual meeting with West Virginia college and university presidents to discuss reopening plans for fall semester

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Governor Jim Justice held a virtual meeting with university presidents across the state to discuss reopening plans for the fall semester.

The meeting was with the 27 presidents of public and private colleges and universities on how to ensure the safety of West Virginia’s students, teachers, faculty members and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the release from the governor’s office.

“What everyone wants to achieve, myself included, is to bring our kids back to our colleges and our universities safely, so they will be able to continue their education while also protecting their communities, teachers, faculty, and everyone around them at our institutions,” Gov. Justice said. “There’s a way to do it and we all need to try to find the safest and best way possible to pull it off.”

During the meeting, Gov. Justice explained that he wanted all students coming into West Virginia from out-of-state to be tested upon their return. The Governor also stated that he wanted individuals on campuses to wear face coverings to the, “greatest extent possible,” and pledged to provide colleges and universities with any additional support they may need to facilitate a safe return.

“If we’re able to reopen in the fall, and I hope and pray we’ll be in a position to do just that, any time there are any problems, whatsoever, we’re going to continue to run to the fire,” Gov. Justice said. “I am pledging all the resources of our National Guard, the DHHR, and we will make sure that support is provided when you need it.”

The release explained that all colleges and universities have individual reopening plans that they are communicating to their campus communities. All of the plans are different to help accommodate the needs of each college community.

During the meeting, Gov. Justice stated that he was confident in each institution’s ability to chart the correct course for their campus communities.

“I know that there’s nothing that matters more to all of us than the safety of our kids and the safety of all of us,” Gov. Justice said. “I truly appreciate your love and devotion to your students, faculty, and your communities.

“There’s no question that we’ve got some real challenges in front of us,” Gov. Justice continued. “We’ve got to really be on our toes. But we’re watching what’s going on with our numbers as a nation and as a state and we’re absolutely trying, with all in us, to get us back as close to normal as we can.”

West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker joined several college and university presidents who also participated in today’s virtual meeting. Here are a few of their statements in response to the meeting:

“I would like to thank Governor Justice for convening presidents from all of our public and private institutions today to talk about their plans for safely reopening to students this fall. Since March, West Virginia’s colleges and universities have coordinated with state officials, their local health departments, and one another to ensure the safest possible transition back to school. We know students are anxious to return, but we also know they and their loved ones are rightfully concerned about their well-being – and so are we. I am incredibly proud of the work our colleges and universities have done, and the strong measures they have put in place, to ensure our students can continue their education while being protected. From offering more classes online than ever before, to thinned-out classrooms and dorm rooms, testing requirements and so much more, our institutions’ campus plans prioritize student and campus safety. We’re counting on students to follow their campus protocols, and we’re excited to welcome them back.”

Sarah Armstrong Tucker, Chancellor, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission & Community and Technical College System

“West Virginia University stands ready to do all we can to support our students, faculty, staff and community as we resume classes this fall. We appreciate the Governor’s guidance and assistance as we navigate uncharted waters. Our priority as a land-grant university is to serve the people of this State. We will continue to do that in the safest and healthiest ways possible.”

E. Gordon Gee, President, West Virginia University

“I welcomed the opportunity this afternoon to meet with Governor Justice to share Marshall’s plans for making the fall semester as safe as we absolutely can for our students, faculty and staff. This will be an unusual and challenging semester, and we are prepared for it based on best public health practices and advice from our medical experts. By offering a plan that includes hybrid courses and some components of online instruction, we will be able to ensure our students have the flexibility they want and need to continue to pursue their studies.”

Jerome A. Gilbert, President, Marshall University

“Glenville State College appreciates Governor Jim Justice’s willingness to listen to and work with the West Virginia college and university presidents. The safety of students in West Virginia higher education institutions is paramount both to the Governor and to Glenville State College. Glenville State College is a small, rural college in the heart of West Virginia and we pride ourselves on the safety of our campus. We intend to continue working diligently to keep the campus community and community at large safe in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have developed an excellent plan that will allow us to bring students and employees back on campus safely while we continue delivering a quality education, and continue updating this plan as needed.”

Mark Manchin, President, Glenville State College

“Our administrative team at Appalachian Bible College has carefully responded to the guidelines from our Governor and the HEPC as we make plans for our students to return to campus. Our considerations have included local health and community concerns. We are confident in our ABC campus community, and we believe we will achieve a quality of education for our students without jeopardizing the safety and well-being of our extended community.”

Daniel Anderson, President, Appalachian Bible College

“On behalf of New River Community and Technical College, I appreciate the opportunity to share our fall plans with Governor Justice. His support of these efforts was demonstrated by his continued willingness to meet with us. Along with the Governor, New River CTC believes that safety for all is the overarching goal as we plan the fall semester. New River CTC adjusted operations to ensure that our faculty and staff have access to the resources they need to safely serve our students because we want our students to have a rich learning environment where their educational goals can be achieved.”

Bonny Copenhaver, President, New River Community and Technical College

“I have watched, with great interest, the Governor’s COVID-19 press conferences, and I found them to be informative, educational, and very helpful in our efforts to reopen our schools. As a Vietnam veteran, I also appreciate the National Guard’s work to do really good things for our state during the pandemic. Blue Ridge Community and Technical College’s protocols for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic are rooted in safety for our campus community. BRCTC’s plans are aligned and consistent with local orders and ordinances of Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties, as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, OSHA, and West Virginia DHHR. As knowledge and understanding of the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, BRCTC’s practices and plans are updated.”

Peter Checkovich, President, Blue Ridge Community and Technical College

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