Many questions for the future arose as the spring 2020 semester came to an abrupt end due to the coronavirus pandemic that left universities across the country scrambling to figure out how they could finish out a semester while providing students a safe educational experience outside of a physical classroom setting. Much of these questions pertain to how future operations by the universities will impact students and faculty on a variety of levels such as academics, athletics and housing situations. While many questions and concerns have been answered by Virginia Tech officials in recent months, there are a variety of questions yet to be answered.
Over time, some universities began to announce their plans regarding the fall 2020 academic semester and beyond. Radford University announced that it will be reopening this fall, with details to be announced at a later date. Virginia Tech made a statement of intent to reopen in the fall for in-person lectures, while noting that there could be no guarantee until a final decision was to be made by the university's respective officials. Virginia Tech President Tim Sands spoke recently on the university’s current planning approach, with a mention of what may be ahead this fall.
“The fall is an opportunity for us to bring the campus back to life to some degree,” Sands said. “We’re really hoping and planning that there will be an in-person fall, but with caveats — and there are still some major decisions to be made.”
While the statement implies that Virginia Tech will reopen in the fall, the question remains as to what extent in-person instruction will be held. With current provisions in place within the state of Virginia that prevent gatherings of more than 10 people in higher education institutions, there is no certainty that we can have gatherings within classrooms that abide by the regulations.
While August is certainly two months away, which leaves room for much change, a decision by the university will need to be made sooner than later in order to prepare for the needs of incoming students, such as housing, dining and living accommodations.
There has been mention of the idea of a hybrid semester, where students may have larger classes online versus taking them in-person, which could help limit the possibility of avoidable exposure of students to one-another. However, where would the line be drawn as to how many students are allowed in a classroom?
Beyond academics, there are other areas that obstacles such as social distancing and limiting exposure will no doubt impact the fall. Social distancing within on-campus housing becomes an issue with the typical dorm room hosting two or more people. Additionally, with dining halls such as Turner Place or West End Market being notable for long lines and large crowds, it is uncertain how they will efficiently operate to serve students.
This upcoming semester, regardless of how it will ultimately be conducted, will no doubt be a time different than any previous fall at Virginia Tech. Whether you are an incoming freshman or a senior set to graduate, this will be an interesting experience that all active students in Hokie Nation will be dealing with together. All that can be done between now and the announcements of what’s to come is to hope for the best, and to give this upcoming semester your best foot forward.