VCU President Michael Rao ‘committed’ to in-person fall semester with safety precautions

With the move from in-person to online classes, there are few students, faculty or staff on campus. CT file photo

Eduardo Acevedo, News Editor

VCU President Michael Rao said he is “committed” to an in-person fall semester, even with a delayed start, in a statement on Monday.

The university is evaluating different scenarios to determine if the fall semester will begin in August or have a delayed start, the release stated.

“Following public health planning and proper safety protocols, I am committed to an in-person fall semester in which we are back together in our classrooms, laboratories, studios, and clinics on both campuses,” Rao said in the release.

Some universities plan to open their campuses for in-person instruction in the fall. These include James Madison University, Marymount University and University of Mary Washington, according to an article from Virginia Business. The reopenings are conditional on the fact that it is still safe to hold in-person instruction.

In his email, Rao said health and safety precautions would be implemented on campus to ensure a “safe return” to classes. These include:

  • Physical distancing protocols for classrooms, student housing, dining halls, labs, studios, offices, libraries, large events and public spaces
  • Procedures for screening, testing and tracing COVID-19 cases
  • Student and employee health support
  • Continued deep cleaning of facilities
  • Return kits for students, faculty and staff that would include masks, hand sanitizer, and other personal protective equipment and supplies

“When we return, things will look and feel different as we take unprecedented but necessary steps to keep each other healthy and safe,” Rao said.

Rao said the university is pursuing additional opportunities for remote teaching, learning and working. These include hybrid options, Rao said, especially for those with health and immunity issues that make them more vulnerable.

The university is conducting a survey to gauge student “feelings and concerns” to address in the planning process. The survey is available through Climatext, an app from VCU that collects data from student-answered survey questions. Students can sign up for Climatext voluntarily at

VCU Health System is planning a reactivation of services for patients who depend on VCU Health clinics. Returning nursing, medical, dental and allied health students will have a “phased-in approach” to their clinical placements, according to the statement.

Experts at VCU and VCU Health are working on new diagnostics and testing, protocols for patient care and safety measures, Rao said.

Rao said in the statement that the VCU Health System is experienced in giving necessary care to patients with “safety practices and clinical innovations.” He described VCU Health as an integral part of the planning and reopening of the university’s campuses.

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