Area colleges will open their campuses to in-class instruction starting next week

·2 min read

PETERSBURG — Area colleges said Wednesday they plan to emerge from self-imposed COVID-19 cocoons and start allowing in-classroom instruction beginning next week.

At Virginia State University in Ettrick, the cocoon will lift a couple of days earlier by allowing spectators to attend home basketball games starting this Saturday.

VSU, Richard Bland College and John Tyler Community College all began their spring semesters online due to a spike in COVID-19 case rates due to the omicron virus variant. Classes were conducted virtually, giving the schools time to make sure their current mitigation policies were sufficient to bring people back to campus.

“The past two-weeks of virtual learning allowed us an opportunity to assess data and campus conditions,” VSU vice president and provost Dr. Donald Palm said. “We have determined that our mitigation strategies which include requiring student COVID entry testing and full vaccination have worked effectively to minimize the health risks to our Trojan family.”

The VSU Trojans played three times during that cocoon period, two of them at the VSU Multi-Purpose Center. They have a road game Thursday, but return Saturday night to face Lincoln (Pennsylvania) University, and fans will be allowed in for that game.

At RBC in Prince George, athletic director Scott Newton said there will be no capacity restrictions for Statesmen sporting events, but attendees will be required to wear masks.

John Tyler CC spokesperson Holly Walker said in an email that student clubs and organizations will be allowed as long as COVID protocols are followed. Each request to meet will be reviewed "on a case-by-case basis," Walker said.

Mask-wearing will be required on the college campuses at all times except when eating or drinking, or if the person is alone. Students will still have to show proof of vaccination to be on campus at VSU, but faculty and staff will not be required to do that, according to a directive from Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

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Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is daily news coach for USA TODAY's Southeast Region-Unified Central, which includes Virginia, West Virginia and central North Carolina. He is based in Petersburg, Virginia. Reach him at batkinson@progress-index.com.

This article originally appeared on The Progress-Index: Central Virginia colleges prepare to open campuses to students

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