Spring Classes Will Be Virtual For Most Virginia Community Colleges
By Brian Carlton
September 21, 2020

School system officials say they just don’t feel it’s safe for a complete return to the classroom.

MARTINSVILLE-Don’t expect Virginia community colleges to return to physical classes anytime soon. In a letter sent to students Friday, Chancellor Glen DuBois said all classes except those that have to be done face-to-face will remain virtual for the Spring 2021 semester. As Chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, DuBois represents the network of 23 schools across the commonwealth. 

“With the threat posed by the pandemic still very much upon us, this approach represents the safest and most prudent choice we can make to serve you this spring,” DuBois said. “We will continue to follow the science in this matter and take guidance from public health agencies. Indeed, public health experts say moving into the traditional cold and flu season will do nothing to slow down the spread of COVID-19.” 

DuBois said he announced the decision now so people could start preparing. That way they wouldn’t be waiting in the middle of December for a yes or no. Currently, 72% of community college courses this semester are fully online. Based on data from the Virginia Community College system, the rest are a mix of online hybrid classes or fully held in person. 

This comes just after the Virginia Health Department reported the first teenager died this month from COVID-19. Also, the state death toll went up by 96 overall this past week, due to cases previously reported incorrectly. Unless something changes, the health department estimates Virginia will have an estimated 208,000 cases by Thanksgiving. 

‘Virtual Classes Are Not The Same’ 

DuBois also made it clear in the letter that all virtual classes aren’t the same. Students should prepare to adapt to different styles and methods of teaching. 

“Some of them are structured to gather at specific times on tools like Zoom, just like a traditional in-person class, so you can engage with your instructor and classmates together,” DuBois said. “Others offer a chance to learn material at your own pace, needing simply to complete assignments or take exams by specific deadlines.”

For students who don’t have internet at home, colleges are also adding campus WiFi hotspots, DuBois said. Some of those are in parking lots, so students can practice social distancing while working. 

Enrollment dropped for community colleges across the commonwealth this fall. VCC data shows an estimated 10% decline from the 2019 numbers. There is, however, a good reason. That 10% or roughly 14,000 students, adds up to the number of high school kids who typically enroll during their senior year.

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