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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  • Students who are withdrawn on the final grade roster will get a WC.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

Campus update 3/27/20

Dear Virginia Western community,

As we wrap up the first fully online/remote week of classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to update you on several important issues related to this change. First, I want to thank all of our outstanding faculty, staff and students for their flexibility and positivity as we make the best-informed decisions we can. These variations to our normal operations are going to have a positive impact upon our community’s health and will likely save lives. Please continue to support one another, help those in need and practice safe distancing routines.

Withdrawal Period: Given the unknown negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, VCCS Chancellor DuBois has extended the deadline to withdraw without a grade penalty for the spring semester. For Virginia Western, that date is May 8, 2020. Effective immediately, a student who withdraws or is withdrawn after the add/drop period but before the last day of classes shall be assigned a grade of “W.” We will send information on the process for a student to withdraw after the currently published deadline in the near future.

Grading Policy: To ensure that students’ academic progress is not adversely impacted at this time, Chancellor DuBois is instituting a Pass/Fail/Withdraw/Incomplete grading scale

for spring semester. Students will have the option to request that their earned letter grades be recorded in lieu of the pass/withdraw/incomplete option. This is compliant with federal and state financial aid guidelines. Public four-year institutions in Virginia have agreed to accept a Pass+ in transfer.

Under this policy, courses that have ended, such as 1st 8 week and 1st/2nd 4-week courses will follow the existing grading scale.

Courses that have not reached the course end date as of April 6, 2020 will use the following grading scale:

P+ Pass with a grade of “C” or higher Applies to college transfer and technical education. A grade of P+ will not impact a student’s GPA.  
P- Pass with a grade of “D” Applies to college transfer and technical education. A grade of P- will not impact a student’s GPA.  
W Withdraw A student may withdraw or be withdrawn up until the last day of classes without penalty. See COVID-19 Guidance Message 11.  
I Incomplete The faculty member and student may agree to a plan to complete remaining course requirements in the following semester. See VCCS Policy 5.6.0.

Virginia Western will develop a process to allow a student to request his/her earned letter grade/s (A, B, C, D, F). Requests must be submitted by not later than the last day of classes on May 8, 2020. A student may submit only one grade request per course, and the request is not revocable. Specifics on this process will be announced in the near future.

Campus Timeline: We have received multiple questions following the announcement that we would remain in online/remote capacity until further notice and not reopen campus on April 6, 2020, as originally planned. Our goal from the beginning of this health crisis has been to return this semester to a normal delivery of courses on campus. That said, we must acknowledge it is increasingly unlikely to happen. With Governor Northam’s restrictions on gatherings in place for at least 30 days (through April 24), faculty and students should plan for those weeks to remain in online/remote instruction with the likelihood we will have to remain online/remote for the rest of the semester.

I know this is challenging for everyone, as the environment can shift during the course of a day. I appreciate everything that you are doing to make this first week successful, and promise that we are sifting through information and options as quickly as possible. We remain mindful of the courses and students that are most impacted by a decision to remain fully online/remote. We will provide additional guidance as soon as it becomes available.

Thank you again for your patience and support.

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert H. Sandel

President

Virginia Western Community College

Campus update 3/25/20

Dear Virginia Western community,

I hope the start of this week has gone as smoothly as possible during this time of transition to online and remote education. Governor Ralph Northam and the Commonwealth of Virginia have continued to respond to the escalating scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and we are following their guidance.

When we originally planned the transition to online classes, our hope was to completely reopen for face-to-face instruction by April 6. That date is no longer realistic in light of guidance from the Governor, the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, Virginia Western campus will remain closed to students and the public until further notice. We will continue to hold Spring Semester classes online and remotely for the time being.

We are updating our website information and frequently asked questions throughout this public health crisis. If you have questions you’d like to ask, we have added a form where you can directly submit them: https://virginiawestern.edu/vwforms/questions-or-concerns/.

The Roanoke Region has been fortunate thus far not to have been impacted by COVID-19 at the level other parts of the country have. For the safety and well-being of our college community, we are asking that if you are tested for COVID-19, you inform the college so we can adequately respond. We will soon have an online form you may submit. Students can also email Lori Baker, Dean of Student Affairs, at lbaker@virginiawestern.edu. Employees can email Jennifer Pittman, Associate Vice President of Human Resources, at jpittman@virginiawestern.edu.

Thank you for considering the health and safety of our region and helping Virginia Western do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert H. Sandel

President

Virginia Western Community College

Employee update 3/20/20

Dear Virginia Western faculty and staff,

Thank you for your extraordinary efforts to transform our traditional in-person classes to online or remote classes. There will certainly be challenges along the way, but we anticipate this will be an effective way to continue the semester while keeping our students and community safe.

Faculty members, if you have not already, please be sure to contact your students today or over the weekend before classes begin online or remotely next week. Although this has been communicated repeatedly through multiple outlets to students, we don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks.

When you speak with students throughout this evolving crisis, there will be a wide variety of potential complications they may face. Please familiarize yourself with resources that are available to them and be sure to share this page with information: https://www.virginiawestern.edu/communications/resources.php.

We know our students will have other hurdles, including financial ones, throughout this crisis. The Virginia Western Educational Foundation is reaching out to the community to solicit donations to support students with emergency needs. Public opportunities to support our students can be found at: https://connect.clickandpledge.com/w/Form/7e9db20c-c8a0-41ec-95d6-1bf432bc6f38.

While the majority of campus employees will be teleworking until further notice, there are services and employees still available on campus. Print services and the mailroom will be operational, though their hours may differ from normal. If you want to schedule a time to pick up a printing job or mail, please call 540-857-7228.

Thank you again for all you are doing.

Sincerely,

Robert H. Sandel, Ed.D.

President

Virginia Western Community College

Governor’s Order to Enforce 10-Patron Limit

Governor Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA today issued a public health emergency order prohibiting more than 10 patrons in restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters. The order gives local and state law enforcement the ability to enforce this ban, which was announced by the Governor earlier today, if needed.

“I hope that everyone will have the common sense to stay home tonight and in the days ahead,” said Governor Northam. “This order will ensure that state and local officials have the tools they need to keep people safe.”

Full Release:
https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2020/march/headline-854500-en.html

Learning Resources for Faculty

Whether this is your first time teaching online or you are a seasoned virtual pro, the Learning Resources Division, OLIT Department, and Media Geeks are committed to helping you continue providing high quality instruction. Listed below are ways that we will support your transition to online teaching.

InfoGuides and Resource Links

·Our brand new GOLF: Get Online Fast InfoGuide will be your one stop place for online teaching information and instructional technology support.

·The Canvas InfoGuides will direct you to resources specific to using the Canvas Learning Management System.

Training Opportunities

There are a number of ways for you to participate in training.  Topics, times and locations are listed on the training page in the InfoGuides.

·In-Person and via Zoom led by Learning Resources staff Erin Leftwich, Joe Bear, Carrie Halpin

oTopics: Zoom Web-conferencing, Panopto Lecture Capture, Canvas LMS, Creating online Tests and Quizzes

·One-on-One Instructional design Consultation: https://carriehalpin.youcanbook.me  During signup, please let Carrie know if you want to meet through Zoom, by phone or in-person

·VCCS Online Webinars – Space is limited and registration is required.

Direct Support:

Erin Leftwich 

eleftwich@virginiawestern.edu

For: Canvas, Canvas Studio, Respondus

Carrie Halpin

chalpin@virginiawestern.edu

For: Instructional Design, Online Teaching, Panopto Lecture Capture, Respondus

Joe Bear

jbear@virginiawestern.edu

For: Classroom Technology, Zoom, Webcams

Chris Porter  Cporter@virginiawestern.edu

Employee FAQs for COVID-19

Please see below for Employee Frequently Asked Questions
Updated 3/27/20

I am working off campus but may have mail or printing pickups, how can I get them?

To ensure proper social distancing and protect the health of print and mail service employees, please call 540-857-7228 in advance and the staff will place packages or materials outside the door. If you are having difficulty opening your PO Box, staff can open from inside for you while maintaining proper social distancing.

I do not have childcare readily available to respond to the K-12 closure. What do I do?

Talk with your supervisor about your options related to utilizing appropriate paid time off benefits or making alternative work arrangements. Decisions may be made in consultation with Human Resources.

I’d prefer to telework instead of being on campus. Can I do that?

Currently, telework arrangements are made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with your supervisor and Human Resources. While the college wishes to provide flexibility under these unique circumstances, we must also be mindful of ensuring that business operations are not disrupted, as the college is still open.

Can I choose to go home and use leave?

You may leave work and cover your time using paid time off benefits with your supervisor’s approval. However, your supervisor is not required to approve your time off if your department is short on staff or must meet pressing business needs.   

Can I access Virginia Western’s internet Wi-Fi if campus is closed to students?

If campus buildings are closed to students, Virginia Western students will be allowed to access the college’s Wi-Fi from their vehicles in the parking lot.

What do I do if I am sick, or a family member is sick?

If you or an immediate family member are sick, please stay home and notify your supervisor through your normal process. Your supervisor, in consultation with Human Resources, will advise you on next steps.

How can I find online resources for teaching or to telework?

You’re in luck, the IET team has put together a website to help you get started: https://virginiawestern.edu/iet-services/preparing-to-telework/.

If we close, do I continue to work from home?

First, to be clear, even though we have shifted to remote work for the majority of the college, we are not currently closed. If we receive direction from the Governor or local health agencies to close our physical campus, telework agreements will remain active for offsite work, as employees will be expected to be able to support continued operations remotely, as able. Please remember that this is NOT the same as an inclement weather closure. Our physical campus may have restricted access, but our college will continue to function in a virtual capacity.

I’m part time – how does this impact me?

Speak with your supervisor about how your particular job will be impacted and expectations for work. In general, we are working diligently to ensure that our part-time workforce remains actively working. As with our full-time population, remote work is strongly encouraged where feasible and appropriate. For jobs that require presence on campus, work will continue as long as our physical campus remains open.

I’m teleworking – are the expectations of my job the same?

At a high level, yes. Teleworking simply means that you are performing the core responsibilities of your job from a remote location instead of on campus. The specific deliverables and/or work responsibilities you’ve been assigned may be different from what you would typically do from campus, as not all job duties can easily transition to remote work. Your supervisor will have provided you with expectations, and will remain in continued communication with you throughout your telework arrangement. Let your supervisor know if you are uncertain about what to do, or have questions related to your work assignments.

I’m stressing out about trying to work from home. Will there still be resources available to help me?

Yes. Your supervisor is your primary resource – they will be best positioned to talk with you about your specific concerns and how your work objectives may be accomplished. Our Help Desk will continue to be available to assist with technology related questions as well. IET has also shared the following resource to assist with questions related to remote-access capabilities (https://virginiawestern.edu/iet-services/preparing-to-telework/).

Why are some employees continuing to work on campus?

Not all jobs are able to easily translate to telework. As long as our physical campus remains open, employees who need to be on campus to fulfill their job responsibilities may continue to work from the college.

I could work from home, but I’d rather not. Do I have that choice?

In order to most effectively utilize social distancing, all individuals who are able to perform their core responsibilities remotely are strongly encouraged to utilize telework. Individual situations and/or requests must be discussed with your immediate supervisor and the college retains the right to mandate telework for eligible employees at our discretion.

How will telework impact my ability to get my job done?

Ideally, telework will allow for our campus community to continue business without disruption to key operations. Realistically, telework is a new environment for all of us, and there will be bumps along the way. If you are experiencing specific difficulties, make your supervisor and/or the appropriate department aware so that we can assist you in working through them. In general, remember that successful telework will require patience, flexibility, and communication. We are all learning as we go to some extent, so providing that understanding to one another will be key.

I’m worried about COVID-19 in general. What resources are there to assist me?

For our campus community, Sheri Meixner remains available for consultation via phone (540-857-6711) or email (SMeixner@virginiawestern.edu). Anthem provides a wealth of online resources related to EAP. Visit https://resources.powerflexweb.com/1631/login.html and enter “Commonwealth of Virginia” in the company code box, then click Commonwealth of Virginia. You may also reach out to Human Resources via Hrapps@virginiawestern.edu to discuss what EAP options may be available to you personally. The CDC has also developed a webpage dedicated to tips for managing anxiety and stress, which can be accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

Surely no one is evil enough to scam people during this health crisis, right?

Wrong! Avoid becoming a victim of online scams: https://virginiawestern.edu/iet-services/disaster-related-scams/.

Where can I find more health information and best practices?