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Campus update 7/17/20

Today, college officials learned that an individual who attended a class on Thursday, July 16, has tested positive for COVID-19. This case is unrelated to Virginia Western’s first identified case earlier this week, with the class taking place at a different location in the Fralin Center for Science and Health Professions, where most of the limited in-person classes are currently being held.

The college is working with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to contact any individuals who attended the class on Thursday and advising them to self-quarantine for 14 days unless they experience symptoms of COVID-19, at which time, they should seek medical advice and potentially testing/treatment.

The college is performing deep cleaning and sanitizing of the impacted area in accordance to guidance from the VDH. The VDH has directed the college that there is not a need to close the classroom or facility at this time. Employees and students are advised to use appropriate face masks/face coverings as well as practice social distancing and hand washing in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and VDH best practices.

We want to ensure that messages related to COVID-19 campus impacts are easily accessible and contained in a single location. In the future, if a positive COVID-19 case necessitates the closure of a facility or portion of a facility, notifications will be posted at https://www.virginiawestern.edu/covid19/. Health and safety guidance from the CDC and VDH as well as college protocols are also located on that site and within the college’s re-opening plan.

Campus update 7/16/20

An individual who attended a class at Virginia Western in the Fralin Center for Science and Health Professions on Saturday, July 11, has tested positive for COVID-19. The college has identified all instructors and students who were present in the class and is working closely with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to contact each one. The VDH is advising those individuals to self-quarantine for 14 days (through July 25, 2020) unless they experience symptoms of COVID-19, at which time, they should seek medical advice and potentially testing/treatment.

The VDH has counseled the college that its regular proactive cleaning this week has sufficiently sanitized the facility and other employees and students do not need to take action beyond their regular safety precautions. Out of an abundance of caution, the college has had additional strict cleaning and sanitation performed on the specific classroom.

Thanks to the affected individual’s self-identification of a positive test to college leaders, we have been able to act swiftly to help safeguard as best we can the health and safety of campus, employees and students. For more information on how Virginia Western is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit: https://www.virginiawestern.edu/covid19/.

A message from President Sandel for Independence Day

I am writing to wish you a happy and safe Independence Day and remind you that Virginia Western Community College will be closed on Friday, July 3 to honor the national holiday. Many of us look forward to this time of year to enjoy a well-deserved summer vacation. This year, however, travel will look very different and we should all make health and safety a priority.

Governor Northam has transitioned Virginia to Phase 3 in the Forward Virginia Plan. This has eased restrictions on non-essential retail, restaurants, entertainment venues, fitness and exercise businesses and more. While the key health indicators in Virginia have improved, please continue to use caution. For the specific guidelines of Phase 3, visit: https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/governor-of-virginia/pdf/Forward-Virginia-Phase-Three-Guidelines.pdf.

If you are going to travel, please carefully consider your plans and take precautions to lessen your potential exposure and the spread of COVID-19. Myrtle Beach, Horry County, S.C.; has become a hotspot of the virus and travelers returning to our region from those areas must self-quarantine for 14 days before coming to campus. The Virginia Department of Health also advises self-quarantine after international travel, or travel on a cruise ship or riverboat. For more travel information, visit: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/coronavirus/travel-to-areas-with-widespread-ongoing-community-spread/.

I hope you all have an enjoyable Fourth of July weekend.  

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert H. Sandel

President

Virginia Western Community College

Campus re-opening plan for Summer Semester

Dear Virginia Western campus community,

During Spring Semester, Virginia Western made unprecedented changes to how we deliver academic courses in order to keep our students, faculty and staff healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. I applaud everyone involved for the efforts to rapidly transform Virginia Western into primarily an online and remote institution in order to complete the semester with as little disruption as possible.

As we prepare to resume a limited number of face-to-face labs and classes with clinical instruction — in accordance with guidelines from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health and Governor Ralph Northam — I want to share with you our plan for reopening in Summer Semester 2020. This plan is our first iteration – designed to provide a framework for our limited return to campus this summer. Certain CCT training programs will pilot the re-opening of classes next week, with a priority on completing incomplete Spring courses. The rest of the campus will begin a limited return on June 30. As with most things right now, it is a fluid document and will be adjusted as additional guidance is received from the system office, the state and local health agencies.

A cross-functional team has explored regulations, recommendations and best practices in order to create this plan. The plan takes multiple perspectives into account to balance health and safety measures with the need and desire to move forward in fulfilling our mission.

We are pleased to share this with you as a means to communicate our progress and intentions. To view the plan, please visit: https://www.virginiawestern.edu/covid19/.

Please share your thoughts and questions with your supervisor or faculty member so we can work to address specific matters. We fully expect this plan to evolve throughout the summer and as we approach further campus classes in the fall. Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert H. Sandel
President
Virginia Western Community College

Summer Semester update

Virginia Western’s campus is currently closed to students until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is holding online and remote learning classes for Summer Semester. The college is planning to reopen for limited in-person labs and clinical classes when permitted during Phase 2 of Governor Northam’s Forward Virginia reopening plan and when the appropriate health and safety protocols and supplies are in place.

Students, the public and guests will not be permitted on campus unless to attend specified laboratory, clinical or hands-on classes. Students who are not taking those specified classes or guests who need to visit campus must schedule an appointment. Not all buildings will be open.

Employee update 4/3/20

Dear Virginia Western employees,

As you may have seen, Governor Northam ordered all state agencies such as Virginia Western to take immediate steps to freeze spending and plan for reduced budgets because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Governor is preparing for the potential of up to $1.8 billion in losses to state revenue, leading to a recession. As of this morning, there are more than 2,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth with 46 total deaths attributed to the pandemic.

We are seeking more guidance from the Governor’s Office as well as the VCCS as to what this will mean for Virginia Western. Here is what we have been directed to do as an institution so far:

  • Maximize carry-forward balances by eliminating discretionary spending for the remainder of the fiscal year; all non-essential spending should cease immediately.
  • Prepare for a full assessment of current and planned initiatives and commitments in order to maximize budget savings for the next biennium.
  • Freeze all hiring of classified and wage positions funded in whole or in part by general fund dollars. We are seeking additional guidance regarding faculty and non-general fund positions.

I understand the anxiety this message from the Governor’s Office can create as we work together as a state to stem the tide of this terrible pandemic. Please be assured that we are doing everything in our power to gather more information for you and take steps to ensure a strong future for Virginia Western.

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert H. Sandel

President

Virginia Western Community College

Campus update 4/2/20

Dear Virginia Western community,

Last week, I shared with you details of a new grading policy and withdrawal period established by the VCCS during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to ease the burden on students as we adapt to an online learning environment. You can view information on those policies at: https://www.virginiawestern.edu/covid19/grading/.

The VCCS has made some revisions to the grading policy in an effort to clarify the process and equip our students for success during Spring Semester. Please see below:

  • Students who withdraw themselves will receive a W.
  • Students who are withdrawn on the final grade roster will get a WC.
  • Neither the W or WC will impact a student’s GPA and both will be handled as a traditional W grade.
  • The 60 percent work completion requirement for an Incomplete (I) grade has been removed
  • Students who receive an Incomplete will have two semesters to complete it, making that work due by the last day of classes for Fall Semester 2020.

We have extended the withdrawal deadline in the Virginia Western system. Students can withdraw themselves in the Student Information System through May 8, 2020.

We will provide guidance on the implementation of these processes in the near future and will share those with you when available.

Thank you again for your patience as we navigate these changes. Students, please reach out to your faculty member or advisor if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert H. Sandel

President

Virginia Western Community College

Employee update 4/1/20

Colleagues, 

As you know, the public health crisis we are currently facing is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. Our state and federal governments are working to approach this crisis from many directions, one of which is how to help mitigate the potential negative impact on our workforce. As policies are developed and refined, we are working diligently to understand the impact to our college community, and how it may help as unexpected or challenging situations arise. With this communication, I want to provide summary thoughts on the core policies that are in place today, as well as some additional resources. 

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)

In one of my first communications to you, I provided a copy of the state’s Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) policy, and asked you to familiarize yourself with it. Essentially, this policy is designed to provide paid leave to full-time and wage employees when work hours are reduced or eliminated as a direct result of COVID-19. PHEL eligibility is based on regularly scheduled work hours. Effective last week, eligibility for full-time employees was increased from 80 hours to 160 hours, or the equivalent of 4 standard work weeks. For part-time employees, the proration also increased to the equivalent of four work weeks, with the amount based on an individual’s regularly scheduled work hours. For example, an employee regularly scheduled for 20 hours per week is eligible for up to 80 hours of PHEL; an employee regularly scheduled for 29 hours is eligible for up to 116 hours. Please talk with your supervisor if you believe that you may be eligible for PHEL. 

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

FFCRA is federal legislation that goes into effect nationwide today, April 1, 2020. While the typical requirement is to post these notices in our physical locations, I am instead attaching a copy of the poster to this email, as the majority of our campus community is now working remotely. This legislation has two main leave components: sick leave and expanded family/medical leave. As a state agency, we continue to await guidance from the Department of Human Resources regarding how this policy will be enacted across the state. Additional communications with details about how this pertains to us will be shared as soon as they are available. 

Additional Resources

While the policies noted above help to provide some financial peace of mind, it is normal to feel a heightened level of stress and anxiety in the midst of all of these changes. There are many resources available to help. Here are a few to get you started:

Additional communication will be forthcoming. If you have questions in the meantime, please reach out to Human Resources at Hrapps@virginiawestern.edu and our HR team will assist you.

As I have said before, our priority during this time is the safety and well-being of our campus community. Thank you for everything that you have done, and continue to do, to keep our college operational. Your efforts are sincerely appreciated.

Dr. Robert H. Sandel

President

Virginia Western Community College

Campus update 3/31/20

Dear Virginia Western community,

On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam issued a statewide Stay at Home order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The executive order is to stay in place until June 10, 2020, unless amended or rescinded. I wish to reiterate the Governor’s words that we all need to stay home and limit interactions with other people unless essential in order to stem the spread of this virus.

As part of the executive order, the Governor directed all Virginia institutions of higher education to cease in-person classes and instruction with the exception of those related to the provision of health care or medical services, such as clinical rotations in medical facilities.

The majority of Virginia Western’s classroom instruction transitioned to online or remote learning the week of March 23, following Spring Break. Some of our classes with clinical rotations in medical facilities will continue meeting as needed and available due to the critical need for health care professionals at this time.

We will hold no in-person classes nor instruction on campus until after June 10 in adherence to the Governor’s executive order. That policy means we will remain in online or remote course delivery for the remainder of the Spring Semester and at least the beginning of the Summer Semester. That includes courses provided by our School of Career and Corporate Training (CCT).

Please continue to follow the Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for health and safety. We must all play our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your patience and diligence at this challenging time.

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert H. Sandel

President

Virginia Western Community College