Initial Planning Message from the Provost – June 26, 2020

From: “Nina Mikhalevsky (nmik)” <>
Date: Friday, June 26, 2020 at 1:18 PM
To: “Nina Mikhalevsky (nmik)” <>
Subject: Message from the Provost

Dear Colleagues, you have received a lot of information and communication over the past few weeks as we develop and finalize plans for the fall semester, address budget challenges, and respond to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. In what follows, I want to update you on some recent changes and developments that specifically pertain to faculty, your course planning for fall, and the initial plans for reopening the campuses for the 2020-21 academic year.

Changes to Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 Calendars. For Fall 2020, classes begin as scheduled on August 24, we will hold classes on Labor Day and eliminate fall break; all in-classroom instruction ends on November 20 and all courses will be fully remote when classes resume on November 30 and through the end of the semester. Students move out of the residence halls the weekend of November 20 and will not return to the residence halls until Spring semester. Spring 2021 classes will begin January 25 (both 8 week and 16 week), there is no spring break, classes end on April 30, final exams end May 7, and Commencement will occur as currently scheduled on May 8. All students who are on the list of pending graduates will be eligible to participate in Commencement exercises in 2021, since final grades will not be due until Wednesday, May 12.

A copy of the Academic Calendar for 2020-2021 is in the new Academic Catalog. It’s also posted on the Provost’s web site, under the menu item for Calendars.

Changes to fall and spring time bands.  Time bands have been altered so that there are 20 minutes between each class period to allow for students and faculty to clean their desks/work areas at the beginning and end of classes, and to permit social distancing as individuals come in and out of classes and move throughout the buildings. These time bands will be used for both fall and spring semesters.

Possible January term. The logistics and academic plans for a possible three-week “J-Term” between fall and spring semester are still being discussed. A decision about whether or not to offer a J-Term will be made by end of July. Dates would be January 4 – 22, if it turns out that the additional term is feasible. Because the spring semester is starting two weeks later, the J-term could be a good way through this longer-than-usual semester break to keep students connected, engaged, and on track to completing their programs of study.

Classroom configurations and social distancing. Per the current reopening plan guidelines, we are limiting all on-campus gatherings to no more than 30 individuals and configuring all classrooms and instructional space to allow for the appropriate spacing per individual.  Debra Schleef and the facilities staff are coordinating with deans and department chairs to get all of the classrooms set up/configured and assigned to faculty, so that faculty can make decisions about how they might use that space, request something larger if possible, or make other adjustments to their courses. The plan is to have that work completed over the next three weeks and achieving a balance between online, hybrid, and in-person classes is important.

Course planning for fall: modalities, expectations, accommodations. As faculty plan their courses for fall, all courses must include the following:

Canvas. All courses must use Canvas in basic ways. This includes providing the syllabus, course schedule, faculty contact information, office hours and means of communication, information on how students will access their grades or feedback, and links to any other sites/platforms that are used for the course with explanation of use and expectations.

Modalities. Some courses are planned to be 100% on-line for the fall semester. All others are in-classroom courses that include some on-campus, in-classroom/lab/studio instruction and experience. These may involve split attendance or flipped classrooms which permit some face-to-face interactions at socially distanced room capacities. All in-classroom courses will offer fully remote instruction starting November 30. All in-classroom courses should also be prepared to go fully remote at any time during fall semester if conditions change. All on-line courses should be structured to ensure that students are engaged irrespective of whether the modalities are synchronous or asynchronous. Any synchronous sessions must be held during the assigned time band for the course.

Accommodations. Student requests for accommodations should be addressed as they always have been in accordance with our established policies. Students must register with and provide documentation to the Office of Disability Resources to receive accommodations.  Individual students asking for other kinds of exceptions or adjustments should be worked with on a case by case basis and faculty are encouraged to be flexible and understanding. Faculty should develop reasonable options to support students who may have to be in quarantine for periods of time and should be flexible about absences due to COVID. This is an important public health approach expected of institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth by the Virginia Department of Health.

Please remember that the Center for Teaching and Digital Learning Support are offering programs and resources all summer to support faculty as you develop your courses. Staff in the Office of Disability Resources and the Library are also available to answer questions and recommend resources.

Fall Course Schedule. The next full revision of the fall course schedule will be posted by July 15. All students will receive a message from the Registrar with information about the fall schedule, and the process and deadlines for making schedule changes (which can start on July 20). There are certainly going to be some additional changes as faculty work through the classroom configurations and we get closer to fall, but the goal is to have the schedule as close to complete as possible by mid-July while new students are in their academic advising period and before the window for making schedule changes opens.

Final Exam Schedule. The Registrar will post the final exam schedule for fall by July 10.

Fall Reopening Plan. The Executive Summary of the UMW Fall Reopening Plan was sent to all students, faculty, and staff on June 18. The final plan will be submitted to SCHEV by July 6, posted on the UMW website, and all students, faculty, and staff will be notified. This plan details the health/safety expectations and protocols for the campus generally, including specifics for classrooms and other instructional areas. There will be required health/safety training for all students, faculty, and staff, with clear expectations for all members of the community supported by institutional policies (student conduct, employee policies, etc.).

Pre-Week calendar. The Pre-Week calendar is still in development but the following activities and events are confirmed:

  • August 17   9:00-10:00 am President’s All University Address; 10:00 am Opening General Faculty Meeting (both zoom); New Faculty Orientation (TBD)
  • August 18   New Faculty Orientation   TBD
  • August 19   COB, COE College retreats
  • Honor Convocation (TBD Virtual)

During pre-week, the Center for Teaching and Digital Learning Support will also be offering drop-in hours for faculty.

This summer, all of us are extraordinarily busy and we are all experiencing the added stress, effort, and energy it takes just to navigate our way through even ordinary tasks during social distancing and other health restrictions. Many of us also have increased demands in our personal lives under COVID, and we are all trying to do our work and plan during a time of uncertainty, continuous change, and often a frustrating lack of critical information.

As others tell me, and I do the best I can to follow, you must set aside some time to take care of yourself, in addition to those around you. If there is anything I can do to be supportive or helpful to you, if you have any concerns or are seeking more information, please reach out to me. If I do not have the answer, I can at least tell you where we are in deliberations or what I do know at that point.  We will get through this– so pace yourself and get support when you need it.

Have a peaceful weekend,


Nina Mikhalevsky
University of Mary Washington
Fredericksburg, VA 22401