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West Virginia Wesleyan College
An aerial view of West Virginia Wesleyan College's campus. / File photo by Brian Bergstrom

Set to welcome students back for in-person instruction in January, WVWC officials outline arrival-on-campus plan

BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Wesleyan College will welcome students back to campus in January for the spring 2021 semester, and college officials want the community to know they have been prepping for students’ return for months.

West Virginia Wesleyan College created a 26-page arrival-on-campus plan, which covers the new rules and policies everyone – including community members – must follow when physically present on Wesleyan’s campus.

Talley Sergent, Wesleyan’s chief development and marketing officer, said the campus has not been fully populated since March 2020, so they knew a comprehensive plan was necessary to maintain the safety of everyone on campus.

John Bohman, director of campus safety and security, led the effort to create the plan, along with the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With John’s leadership, we built a plan that has student input to create an arrival on campus plan that can address the needs as we go,” Sergent said. “As we all know, COVID has a mind of its own. It is a virus that dictates what happens, versus us telling it, so we need to be ready for every circumstance, which is why this is so comprehensive.”

The first change that will stand out to anyone on campus will be Wesleyan’s universal mask policy.

“That means if you are outside of your residence hall room or have your residence hall room door open and people are standing in the door, even then, if you were walking across campus, if you were going to be Wellness Center and on the treadmill, if you’re in the library studying, you have to wear that mask,” Sergent said.

“These are all protocols that are put in place at the advice of the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department,” she added. “We’ve been working closely with (UBHD nurse director) Sue McKisic and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, so these are all scientific-based decisions that are being made by the college.”

Bohman said everyone will have to work together to make the mask policy effective.

“I’m expecting all faculty, staff and students to work together with us, and we’re asking the whole community to give friendly reminders of, ‘hey, you don’t have your mask on, please put your mask on,’” Bohman said. “If somebody is failing to comply, they’re going to simply just call our security department and we’re going to be friendly about it: ask and we’ll offer a mask to them. If they do not comply, we’re going to take them through the normal judicial process on campus and I’m expecting this to be a positive community effort.”

“Our students are excited to come back and I think they’re going to cooperate with us,” Bohman added.

The academic office used a formula recommended by the CDC to help ensure safety in a classroom system, including gauging room sizes to determine occupancy limits.

“We’re also repurposing spaces on campus that are normally for co-curricular types of things, so our larger spaces are now turning into classroom spaces,” Bohman said. “First and foremost, we want to make sure everybody is protected. Based in science, we’re going to do the best we can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Over 200 hand sanitizer stations have been strategically placed in public areas and Bohman said they will be utilizing an alcohol spray that kills COVID-19 in 20 seconds.

“We have fogging machines on campus that, throughout the day, will sanitize high traffic areas. One example would be our mailroom area, so the very first thing in the morning, they will fog all the touchpoints of the mailboxes and there’s more than 1,500 mailboxes,” Bohman said. “We put Plexiglas in; I personally went around to each office and asked what the needs were, and we took requests, and it was really a team effort to help protect each other.”

Before students arrive on campus, they will be required to have the flu vaccine and a negative COVID-19 test.

“We are utilizing some of our campus housing – actual houses that are considered on-campus – as well as Jenkins Hall, as isolation and quarantine areas,” Sergent said. “John has built out this very robust plan and thought through all of these potential hypotheticals.”

Bohman said social events will have to be virtual, as well as recruitment events and parties will not be able to happen in the Greek life buildings.

“Social events are going to be virtual and all groups are doing their recruitment virtually and we’re following the CDC guidance and the state guidance in that regard,” Bohman said. “We’re not going to allow parties at the fraternity houses – you can read that in the arrival on campus plan for more details.”

(The entire 26-page comprehensive re-entry plan may be accessed via Wesleyan’s website here.)

Incoming students will be receiving emails over the holidays outlining some of the new rules and guidelines, as well as a training module that will go over new polices.

“I think one thing that’s really important is this universal mask policy, which applies to anyone on the West Virginia Wesleyan campus, so if you are out exercising and walking your dog and you’d love to walk by Wesley Chapel or in front of the admin building and cut across campus to the Riverwalk, you will be required to put a mask on and there will be signs asking you to put a mask on,” Sergent said. “We would be grateful to the community for doing their part when they come to campus and be willing to adhere to these safeguards and policies that we’re working to implement to keep everybody safe.”

Bohman said there are four points he especially wants to convey to the Wesleyan and Buckhannon-Upshur communities.

“A negative COVID-19 test is a requirement before any of our students come back: They’re required within a seven-day period to submit a negative test, so we’re hoping to filter all those that might be positive so they stay home, get well, and then come back Buckhannon,” Bohman said. “Secondly, as far as the flu shot goes, we’ve made it mandatory that our students received it, and the Upshur-Buckhannon Health department advocated for that.”

Lastly, he said the mask policy and physical distancing will be key to maintaining in-person instruction on campus.

“It doesn’t matter where you are on campus, we want everybody to wear a mask and then we have educational modules where all faculty, staff and students are required to go in and take COVID-19 education modules,” Bohman said. “We think that will help prepare everybody’s mindset and thinking before they step on campus. Of course, physical distancing, we have taken extra measures to make sure spacing around campus is appropriate, according to the CDC.”

The West Virginia Wesleyan Spring 2021 calendar, which can be found here, shows that while regular students will be returning Jan. 23-24, 2021 with classes beginning Jan. 25, some students, including athletes, for example, will return earlier. In fact, the first women’s and women’s Bobcat basketball games – set to be held without spectators – are currently scheduled to tip off at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. respectively Thursday, Jan. 7.

Finally, the college will maintain its own COVID-19 dashboard, which is accessible here, along with the comprehensive arrival-on-campus plan.

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