The Good News for Fall: Taking steps toward an in-person normal

I know we’re all looking forward to the time when life returns to pre-pandemic normal. For those of us with college students, helping our children cope with this disruption at such a critical juncture in their lives has been a constant focus of our attention.

I hope the good news I’m sharing with you today will provide some reassurance about your Lancer’s well-being now and next year.

Below are some of the high points of a conversation with Provost Larissa Smith and Associate Vice President Matt McGregor, both of whom have been central to Longwood’s successful response to Covid-19 over the past 12 months and are part of the team developing the plan for fall 2021. (You can read the full text of the conversation here.)

—Building on the success of a full academic year with students on campus and in classrooms, Longwood is looking to the fall 2021 semester with an eye toward offering even more in-person classes and providing an experience as close to normal as possible.

—The exact classroom and other precautions in place next fall will depend on a range of factors, including public health guidelines at the time classes start. The precautions in place this year, and commitment of our students to looking out for one another, are what have allowed students to remain on campus during the past 12 months without a single instance known or suspected instance of the virus spreading through classrooms or academic settings.

—Plans are for the G.A.M.E., Oktoberfest, Parents Weekend and some of the other events we traditionally hold in the fall to take place in person in some form. We know how important these are.

Clubs and organizations should be able to meet and gather in a way much closer to normal.

Some of you may be wondering if your student will be able to continue taking classes online next year.

Here is Dr. Smith’s explanation: “When they register for classes, undergraduate students have the option to search for classes with different meeting times and methods, though there are typically very few online-only classes. We anticipate it will be extremely rare for us to make accommodations for a student to attend their scheduled in-person classes remotely. We believe in the power of a residential academic community, and we know that our students learn better that way. Students with questions about this can email”

And some of you may be wondering about Covid-19 vaccinations for college students.

Matt McGregor: “Currently, Virginia public universities like Longwood cannot require Covid-19 vaccinations because they are approved under an FDA emergency-use protocol. For now, we are certainly encouraging students to get vaccinated when they can and are working with the state to try to help them do so. Gov. Northam has opened up pre-registration to all Virginia residents 16-64 years old to begin vaccinations on April 18, and we urge students to pre-register and receive a vaccine.”

Commencement 2021:

This week we sent out information to senior students about our plans for Commencement 2021. In several discussions with the senior class, students asked for a way to celebrate together as a class in one ceremony. We are honoring those wishes, even though under the rigorous state commencement guidelines that will limit the number of guests allowed. Undergraduate Commencement will be May 15 at 9:30 a.m. on Wheeler Mall. Each participating senior will be allowed two guests, and each family group will sit in “pods” socially distanced per the state’s guidelines. An outdoor Graduate Commencement will take place May 14 at 5:30 p.m. on Stubbs Mall. Students will have an opportunity to sign up for professional photos that Sunday with larger groups of family and friends at Longwood House, where President Reveley will join graduates in their celebration in full regalia for photos.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to send them to That’s the fastest and best way to get reliable answers.

—Sabrina Brown