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Virginia colleges extend spring break, adapt online classes amid coronavirus pandemic

The institutions are part of more than 100 universities nationwide that have moved classes online or momentarily closed to stop the spread of the illness.

Capital News Service

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By Hannah Eason

Virginia colleges and universities are extending spring break and adapting online classes amid the new coronavirus — along with more than 100 universities nationwide and still counting — after the flu-like illness was declared a world pandemic on Wednesday.

There are nine presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Most of them are in Northern Virginia, with one confirmed case in Central Virginia.

Professors are quickly pivoting to get material online, and some schools, like Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, are offering resources to help teachers adjust. Many students have expressed concern over a lack of digital equipment and internet access.

Most universities are canceling events with more than 100 attendees and have online resources for students to access updated information. Many colleges have canceled in-person classes, but faculty and staff will continue to work on campus. Below is a sample of universities that have changed schedules to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

James Madison University will extend its spring break until March 23 and will teach online classes until April 5. JMU President Jonathan Alger said in a release that students will be updated on the remainder of the semester on March 27.

Longwood University will be closed until March 18, canceling in-person classes and events following a presumptive positive diagnosis for a Longwood student on Wednesday. In a release, Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley said faculty would continue to prepare for the possibility of online classes.

Norfolk State University extended spring break until March 23 and will teach classes online until April 6. University residences will reopen March 22.

Old Dominion University will resume classes online on March 23 after an extended spring break. ODU President John Broderick said in a statement posted on Facebook that the school would monitor the situation and reassess on April 6.

Radford University extended its spring break for an additional week and plans to teach online until April 17, according to the university’s website. The university – as most academic institutions are doing – asked that faculty, staff, and students complete voluntary travel declaration forms.

“The information will be shared with local health officials as needed on a case-by-case basis,” Radford President Brian Hemphill said in a release. “For those who traveled, the University may ask individuals to self-monitor or self-isolate for two weeks depending upon the locations that were visited and the activities that were engaged in.”

The University of Richmond extended spring break, canceling classes from March 16-20, and will hold online classes until at least April 3.

The school’s website states that students with extenuating circumstances, such as international students, can submit a petition to stay in on-campus housing although access to student services and facilities will be limited.

University of Virginia students will also move to online courses starting on March 19, according to a release from U.Va. President James Ryan posted on Wednesday.

“We will not be holding classes on Grounds for the foreseeable future, quite possibly through the end of the semester,” Ryan said in a release. “We will reassess after April 5 at the earliest and periodically after that date.”

Virginia Commonwealth University announced Wednesday that it will extend its spring break for an additional week. When the semester resumes on March 23, classes will be taught remotely for the “foreseeable future.” Classrooms are expected to use digital tools such as Blackboard, videoconferencing and online programs.

The release from VCU President Michael Rao said details regarding on-campus housing, student services, and dining plans are forthcoming.

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for being mindful and respectful of others during this outbreak, which is not limited to any particular age group, geographic region, nationality, ethnicity or race,” Rao said.

Virginia Tech’s spring break is extended to March 23, with a transition to online courses for the remainder of the semester. All events with over 100 people are canceled through at least April 30, though May commencement plans are still in place.

“Our campus administrators, public health experts, and community leaders have been continuously engaged in monitoring the situation in Blacksburg, across Virginia, and around the world,” a release stated. “In consultation with our partners in the Virginia Department of Health, we are adopting a range of principle-based actions, effective immediately.”

William & Mary will start online classes on March 23, after an extended spring break, to continue until at least April 1. University events are canceled until April 3.

Virginia State University announced Wednesday that it will cancel or modify all scheduled events for the next 30 days. Modifications include pre-packaged options in dining halls and live streams for events, like the Mr. and Miss VSU Pageant and student government activities. Christopher Newport University took a similar approach, by rerouting study abroad plans and limiting serve-served food, according to its website.

A few colleges remain open at this time: Liberty, Regent and Hampton universities and Reynolds Community College.

As of Wednesday, there are 938 confirmed and presumed positive COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bulk of cases are in Washington, California and New York. The infection has caused 29 deaths in the states. Worldwide, more than 118,300 people have the infection, including over 80,900 individuals living in mainland China. The outbreak has killed 4,292, reported the World Health Organization.

For more information about COVID-19 in Virginia, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Richmond Craft Mafia’s Virtual Craft Show

Spring Bada Bing is postponed but your ability to pick up wonderfully hand-crafted items will not be denied.

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One of the many ripple effects of no large gatherings of people is that local crafters have lost their ability to make some cash. Richmond Craft Mafia has come up with a nice solution, the Virtual Craft Show.

With Spring Bada Bing postponed we were looking for a way to support small businesses through this extremely hard time. We decided as a group to do a “virtual craft show” so you can support awesome makers while stuck at home.

The first vendor we would like to highlight is Bright Life Toys. They create funky kawaii plush toys and Waldorf movement toys. They believe in creative play for creative kids! I will be highlighting this adorable company all day on our Instagram. Make sure you are following us at @richmondcraftmafia

You can purchase products from Bright Life Toys by visiting their etsy shop at: http://www.brightlifetoys.etsy.com

The otter is the cutest thing ever.

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Education

Distance learning poses challenges for students, teachers

Students and teachers are transitioning from classroom to computer as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Not every subject lends itself to a smooth transition to distance learning, as students and instructors have discovered.

Capital News Service

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By Jimmy O’Keefe

Students and teachers at all levels of education are transitioning from classroom to computer as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise. Not every subject lends itself to a smooth transition to distance learning, as students and instructors have discovered.

“I think we’re all really frustrated,” said Jordyn Wade, a fashion design major at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “But we know that our professors are doing what they can in a really unprecedented situation.”

Wade said that she and her classmates are now meeting remotely through Zoom, a video conferencing platform. Zoom allows students to meet virtually during a time when people can’t meet physically, but distance learning poses challenges for courses that require more than a lecture, like art classes and lab components of science classes.

Students like Wade worked mostly with industrial grade equipment.

“We kind of rely heavily on the school for supplies like sewing machines and the industrial equipment that can cost thousands of dollars,” Wade said. “Now we just stare at each other and they ask us,‘What can you guys do? Can you hand sew an entire jacket before the end of the month?’”

Wade said that one of the most frustrating aspects of distance learning is not being able to receive direct feedback from professors.

“We can’t ask our professors what’s wrong with the garment that we’re making, we can just send them pictures and hope they can figure it out from afar,” Wade said.

Chloe Pallak, a student in VCU’s art program said that many of her projects are being graded on whether or not they are complete.

“To get a grade for an assignment, you just have to do it,” Pallak said. “It really takes away the motivation of wanting to make art and not just complete the assignment.”

Courses that include lab components, such as classes in environmental science, also face challenges as classes move online. Griffin Erney, an environmental studies major at VCU, said that distance learning prevents students from accessing lab materials that are typically provided in the classroom.

“Before the class was online we would just do different activities and be provided with the materials,” Erney said. “Having labs online is more challenging, on top of all the work that we already have.”

On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam issued an order that closed down all K-12 schools in the state for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Davide D’Urbino, a chemistry and organic chemistry teacher at Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield County, said he plans on using computer applications to supplement labs that cannot be completed in the classroom. He said the school division requested that teachers hold off on introducing new learning material.

“The expectation was that you could teach new stuff, but then you have to go back in class and reteach it,” D’Urbino said.

D’Urbino said teachers aren’t allowed to teach new material online because some students may not have internet access. He said he understands why the school division has placed these restrictions but said it “feels weird.”

Distance learning has also presented challenges to teachers trying to adapt to lecturing online.

“Some people say teaching is 75 percent theater, you just go out there and do improv. You can’t really do that online,” D’Urbino said. “It’s very difficult to intervene and correct course if you realize something isn’t quite working out.”

Teachers have also scrambled for ways to continue instruction for students that lack access to the internet.

Janice Barton, a 5th grade science teacher at Honaker Elementary School in Russell County, said that about half of the 60 students she teaches have access to the internet. She said the school is using Google Classroom, a web platform that allows teachers to share files with students through the internet. For students without internet access, teachers create physical packets of learning content.

“We’re working as grade levels, we’re going in and working together to put the packets together,” Barton said. “We have pickup days and drop-off days, and that’s how we are working and dealing with this right now.”

Barton said the school uses phone calls, emails, and the app Remind, which allows teachers to send messages to students to keep in contact with parents and students.

While local school divisions are tasked with making decisions on how to pursue distance learning, the Virginia Department of Education issued guidance to help divisions continue instruction.

VDOE’s guidance to local school divisions includes offering instruction during the summer of 2020, extending the school term or adjusting the next, and adding learning modules to extended school calendars.

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane issued guidance regarding eight high school senior graduation requirements and will be issuing further guidance for half of those, which can not be waived outright.

Two other graduation requirements — training in emergency first aid and the completion of a virtual course — require action by the General Assembly in order to be waived.

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Fox Elementary Teacher Train Coming to a Street Near You Today

Fox teachers and staff are driving through the area to say hello and goodbye to their students. Give them so love back.

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Fox teachers are driving through the district to say hello to their students. Show them how much y’all miss and appreciate them. Make a poster, wave, give a virtual high-five from a safe distance to cheer them on.

Parade Route

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