HAMPTON ROADS — The Omicron variant has caused an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Local school systems have published their health and safety policies with students and families upon returning to classrooms this week.
Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools (WJCC):
WJCC decided to continue to use its existing safety measures that include masking, social distancing, and regular cleaning/disinfecting of facilities. WJCC also participates in the ViSSTA screening program that provides free routine COVID-19 testing for students. ViSSTA is entirely voluntary and only students with a signed consent form will be tested.
In an online post shared on WJCC’s website and via social media, the school division announced that it has been accepted into a pilot program called “Test to Stay”; a program run by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The school division says it will share more information with WJCC families when Test to Stay is implemented across the Commonwealth.
WJCC published on its website that the goal is to keep all schools open for in-person learning five days a week.
The school division continues to follow CDC quarantine guidelines following exposure to COVID-19.
York County School Division (YCSD):
York County School Division Superintendent, Victor D. Shandor, addressed YCSD families in a public letter and presented the school division’s current COVID-19 policies.
Like WJCC, the school division’s goal is for classes to remain in-person.
“On Monday, January 3, we will be returning to our classrooms as scheduled as we remain committed to our belief that students belong in school, in-person. As case levels ruse across the country and Virginia due to the Omicron variant, maintaining safe learning environments for our staff and students will take a community effort,” Shandor said in his public message to YCSD families.
The public letter says that daily health screenings are still expected for all students and staff prior to entering a school or office building. YCSD asks that if a student or employee has received a positive COVID-129 diagnosis to notify the school.
YCSD is continuing to follow its isolation and quarantine guidelines. This includes mask-wearing, physical distancing, and disinfection of high contact surfaces within school facilities.
The College of William & Mary(W&M):
The university is requiring the COVID-19 vaccination for all of its students, faculty, and staff unless there is an express medical or religious exemption which applies.
For the Spring 2022 semester all students, faculty, and staff are also required to show proof of receiving a COVID-19 booster on or before Jan. 18, 2022.
A full list of COVID-19 health and safety protocols can be found on the university’s website.
Christopher Newport University (CNU):
Christopher Newport University announced that it has delayed the start of the 2022 Spring semester from Jan. 5 – Jan. 10 and the school announced that all of its students are required to have the vaccine booster shot by Feb. 15, 2022. At this time faculty and staff are not required to have the booster shot but are strongly encouraged by the university to do so. The school will continue to follow masking and other mitigation protocols such as sanitizers placed throughout the campus facilities.
Hampton University announced that classes will begin as scheduled on Jan. 10, 2022. However, the first two weeks of classes will be conducted remotely via Zoom. The university is requiring that all students be tested for COVID-19, and the school will continue its masking and social distancing policies.
Old Dominion University (ODU):
In August, ODU announced a COVID-19 vaccination requirement that was effective Sept. 1, 2021, with exemptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs. Students who take only online courses and who never come to an ODU campus or location will not be required to have the COVID-19 vaccine.
ODU is requiring all on-campus faculty and staff to be vaccinated with exemptions for those with a medical or religious exemption. All unvaccinated employees are subject to required weekly testing.
ODU’s Spring semester begins Jan. 8, 2022. The school continues to follow the CDC’s guidelines for physical distancing and other recommended protective measures.
As students, faculty, and staff return to campus, they will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster by Feb. 10, 2022. Students living on campus will also be required to show a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 72 hours before arrival.
Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC):
Thomas Nelson Community College has an infectious/contagious disease policy and protocols that follow the recommendations of public health officials to help ensure the health of the school’s students, faculty, and staff.
According to the College’s Return to Campus Plan, “Before returning to the College, students who reported having, or have been diagnosed as having, a contagious disease must be free of all symptoms of the disease for at least seven (7) days since the date of the first report or diagnosis, or as otherwise recommended by a healthcare provider, the Virginia Department of Health, Center for Disease Control, or other public health officials. The College may require students to provide written documentation from a healthcare provider or local health department that the student may return to campus safely unless state officials advise agencies to not make such requests, in which case students may return after the appropriate period as established by public health officials.”
A similar policy applies to the College’s employees who have been diagnosed with symptoms.
The school requires faculty, staff, students, and visitors to their facilities to wear a mask.
On Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, Governor Northam announced a directive (ED 18) that Virginia state workers will require state workers to show proof that they are fully vaccinated or be tested for COVID-19 every week. ED 18 took effect on Sept 1, 2021.
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