SCHEV approves fall reopening plan, classroom reconfiguration is under way

You may be aware that Gov. Northam has required each institution of higher education in Virginia to submit detailed plans covering all aspects of their reopening plans for the fall.

Longwood found out today that its plan—which was submitted last month—has been approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The plan includes multiple aspects of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, including
—Social distancing
—Housing and dining adaptations
—Protections for vulnerable individuals
—Workplace safety measures
—Health care policies and resources
—Procedures for responding to positive Covid-19 cases
—Communicating with the campus and local community

Longwood’s comprehensive planning documents, which are available on Longwood’s main Covid-19 website, were reviewed by SCHEV and the Virginia Department of Health. Approval means that the plan contains all 26 required components. It will  continue to evolve and be updated along with changing guidance and as planning continues.

A key part of the planning for fall is rearranging classrooms so that every student and faculty member inside is socially distanced. Leading this effort at Longwood is Russ Carmichael, director of planning and real estate services, who says the university’s plan exceeds Centers for Disease Control guidelines for social distancing inside buildings.

Longwood’s rearrangement of the chairs, tables, desks, lecterns and other furniture in every classroom on campus will result in at least—if not more than—6 feet of distance between all students and faculty while they are in class, he said.

“We began the process by taking measurements of each room and coming up with an estimate of what we could fit into each space. We then fed the dimensions of each classroom and existing furniture into a space-maximization computer program,” Carmichael said. “It returns a recommended arrangement. We use the computer output to best arrange furniture in a way that maximizes class seating availability while ensuring we aren’t compromising any spacing specifications.

“Each classroom is being assessed multiple times to ensure that social distancing is followed,” he added.

Because of the spacing requirements, each classroom will lose between 50 and 60 percent of its capacity, which means, for example, that a classroom with a normal capacity of 40 people will now be able to accommodate fewer than 20.

“It’s going to require some creativity when Academic Affairs staff assign classes to their rooms, but we can do it,” Carmichael said.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the full Q&A with Carmichael, which you can find here.

—Sabrina Brown



A successful fall semester is up to all of us

As parents, I know you have lots of questions about what campus life will look like and how classes will work in the fall for your student.

To give you a clearer picture as plans evolve, we have recently updated our  Fall 2020 Covid-19 web page and our What Will Fall Look Like overview. Both of these provide information about classes, social distancing, face coverings, dining, testing, health care resources and other important topics related to the fall 2020 semester.

Working closely with the commonwealth, Centers for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Health, and following their guidance, we are still finalizing the details of some aspects of the plan. Your student will receive additional information in the weeks ahead, including an updated Student Handbook.

Faculty, staff and administrators are diligently getting ready for the return of students this fall. We know they’re excited to return—and we’re excited to have them back. All of us—students and parents included—have a part to play in accomplishing this safely.

Tim Pierson, vice president for student affairs, put it this way in an email to students yesterday: “Making this year work will depend on each member of our community owning their responsibilities to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Success for the school year will be up to all of us.”

Below are some essential components of a successful return to campus that Dr. Pierson and Dean of Students Jennifer Fraley communicated to students in that email. Your support of these guidelines is critical. Please encourage your student to follow them conscientiously with not only their own health and safety in mind but also that of their professors, their fellow students and the staff that keep the campus running smoothly. We also respectfully ask that you show your support by following any guidelines that are applicable to you if you visit campus.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to send them to

Also this week, we were happy and relieved by the news that the proposed Department of Homeland Security directive regarding international students has been withdrawn. While it did not appear to affect Longwood as directly as many other institutions, our international student community is relatively small but deeply valued and will continue to have our full support. Longwood’s Center for Global Engagement continues to monitor the situation and work to help our students navigate a range of complicated travel and other issues related to returning to campus this fall.

Thank you for entrusting your student to Longwood. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously, especially in these challenging times.

—Sabrina Brown

Regarding New Covid-19 Guidelines: Excerpt from the July 15 email sent to students by Vice President for Student Affairs Tim Pierson and Dean of Students Jennifer Fraley 

Monitor your own health, and do your part to protect others. Follow the steps and guidelines Longwood is taking across campus to encourage social distancing. If you have symptoms, or are sick (with Covid-19 or otherwise), seek medical attention and don’t go to class. There are people in our community who may have higher risks than you. Commit to habits—from hand washing to face coverings to social distancing—that will help keep you well and ensure you’re not the one to pass on the virus.

Wear a face covering. Face coverings will be required this fall during all classes, in between classes, and at all times in many parts of campus. They should be worn anytime on campus when you cannot maintain six feet of distance. Get used to wearing a face covering, always have one with you, and make wearing one your default.

Own your academic responsibilities. This is always an important part of your education. If you need to miss class because you are sick or are required to isolate, communicate with your faculty. Be assured, faculty will be there to support you with the resources for you to keep up with or make up classwork.

Citizenship. The Farmville community wants Longwood to be vibrant again. Around the country, there have been stories about Covid-19 spreading among college-age students ignoring health guidelines at crowded parties and events. People are wondering whether students will really do their part for their community, and to make college work this year, by acting responsibly. Prove those who doubt your commitment to our community wrong. Wear a face covering, socially distance, and avoid crowds, especially indoors. If our community members see Longwood students acting responsibly around campus and town, it won’t just help stop the spread of the virus, it will build trust that we’ll need to make this semester successful. This is what citizen leadership is all about—leading by example to do your individual part for the greater good.

In closing, one of the things that’s really different about Longwood is our honor code. When we each take it upon ourselves to behave honorably, trust and community follow, making Longwood more special. In the same way, if we all do our part and behave honorably in response to this pandemic, we will be able to experience what matters most about Longwood this year.

It’s in our hands, together.