Return to Grounds: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Students, Faculty, Staff

View of the Rotunda with the sun shining on it

(Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

A return to Grounds this fall raises many important questions for students, faculty and staff at the University of Virginia, ranging from which courses will be offered online and in-person to how the University will handle important public health measures like face coverings, testing and contact tracing.

Each week, the University shares many of the details of its COVID-19 Prevention, Detection and Response Plan, including mandatory virus testing for students and plans for contact tracing, isolation and quarantine. The “Return to Grounds” website and accompanying Fall 2020 Student Resource Site each have extensive FAQ sections answering common questions about these plans and other logistics for the fall semester, including housing, dining, transportation and more.

Below, we have compiled some of the most-clicked questions for easy reference.

Top Questions for Students

Q. Will all classes have an online option?

A. Yes, with the exception of a small number of clinical or practicum courses, all courses will be available virtually in fall 2020. Students with preexisting conditions should feel free to contact their school of enrollment or the Student Disability Access Center for information about accommodations.

Q. What will the grading policy be for fall 2020?

A. The University’s standard grading options will apply in the upcoming year.

Q. Can all undergraduates take a reduced course load in fall 2020?

A. While most undergraduates will have the option of taking a reduced course load in the fall, some programs or scholarships may impose requirements that exclude or restrict this option. In considering whether to take a reduced course load in the fall, students should consult their advisers and, where relevant, Student Financial Services.

Fall 2020 Return to Grounds. Find out more.

Note: For the 2020-21 academic year, undergraduate UVA fall and spring tuition will include a domestic January-term course. So long as a student accumulates no more than 33 credits in fall, J-term, and spring (cumulative), the student may also take one course in Summer Session I without extra charge.

Q. When will exams take place? Will they all be virtual?

A. Exams will begin Dec. 2 and will end Dec. 11. The two days prior to that, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, will be reading days. As already announced, following Thanksgiving there will be no in-person activities, meaning that all exams and other final assessment activities will be held online. For more information visit the Academic Calendar.

Q. What about the libraries? Where can students go for quiet study?

A. As many libraries as possible will be open, but everyone will be expected to adhere to all University and public health guidelines including the use of PPE and social distancing. Physical barriers will also be installed in library study spaces to limit contact.

For many more FAQs for students, please visit the FAQ section of the Student Resource Site.

Top Questions for Faculty and Staff

Q. Will UVA require employees to wear face masks on Grounds?

A. Yes. See Policy SEC-045, which governs face coverings on Grounds that adhere to the governor’s Executive Order 63. Face coverings must be worn by all faculty, staff and students while inside a University facility or otherwise inside a building on University Grounds or on any University property when in the presence of others (e.g., common workspaces, meeting rooms, etc.). Face masks must also be worn on University Transit buses.

Note that both federal and state law allows employers to direct employees to wear face coverings as necessary steps to protect public health.

Q. Are there any exceptions to the face covering requirement?

A. Yes, UVA Policy SEC-045 contains a provision that outlines exemptions to the face covering policy:

  • A person eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment on University Grounds.
  • A person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible.
  • Anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering.
  • Any person who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance.
  • A person in need of medical or related services may temporarily remove the face covering.

Q. How will face covering rules under Policy SEC-045 be enforced?

A. Pursuant to the policy, failure to comply with requirements of Policy SEC-045 may result in disciplinary action in accordance with relevant University policies.

Q. Will the University provide face coverings?

A. The University will provide two cloth face coverings per faculty, staff and student working or studying in a University facility or on University Grounds. A disposable mask will be provided by the University should the faculty, staff or student forget to bring their own. Individuals are responsible for laundering the face covering as necessary. Disposable masks must only be worn for one day and then disposed of in the trash. Individuals may provide their own face covering for their personal use.

Q. Am I required to take a COVID-19 test before returning to Grounds? Will I need to take a test later?

A. Tests are not required for UVA employees before returning to their workplace. Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 will be asked to get tested immediately as well as self-isolate while the test result is pending. Students are required to take a COVID-19 test and have a negative result certified before they may return to Grounds. More information about student testing is available here.

Once students and employees return to Grounds, testing for COVID-19 will occur in a number of ways to help maintain the safety of the UVA community and the surrounding Charlottesville area. Please note that this guidance is subject to change as public health conditions evolve.

  • Symptomatic Testing: Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 will be asked to get tested immediately as well as to self-isolate while the test result is pending. Students should contact Student Health at 434-924-5362 to schedule a test. Employees should contact Employee Health at 434-924-2013 to schedule a test.
  • Outbreak Testing: If there are outbreaks of cases in particular areas of Grounds, we will ask those who have spent time in these areas to be tested, because they will have been at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
  • Ongoing Grounds surveillance: We are considering several possible strategies to have an early signal of possible COVID-19 outbreaks. We are investigating the testing of wastewater in certain University building or residences, and we are considering point prevalence surveys, which is the practice of testing all individuals in a designated area or facility (such as a densely populated residence), regardless of symptoms.
  • Asymptomatic Testing: Students, faculty, staff and contract employees who do not exhibit symptoms, but would like to be voluntarily tested, will have the option to do so no more than once every 60 days, unless prior authorization is obtained from Employee Health or Student Health. These tests will need to be scheduled, as a limited number of testing slots will be allocated each day based on available lab capacity and resources.

For more information, see current guidance from the Virginia Department of Health on isolation and quarantine.

For many more FAQs for faculty, staff and community members, please visit the FAQ section of the Return to Grounds site.

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