JMU News

Fall 2020 Update


Dear JMU Community,

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve previously announced that James Madison University plans to offer an in-person, on-campus residential experience this fall in accordance with applicable public health guidance. As the Commonwealth of Virginia begins to reopen, it’s important that we update you on the specific contingency plans to support the reopening of the campus that we have been working to develop since March. Safeguarding the health and well-being of students, faculty, staff and members of our community, modifying operations and facility use, and responding to potential outbreaks—all within the context of our mission as a learning community—have been our motivations as we’ve planned to resume on-campus operations since the start of the pandemic.

We look forward to sharing the details of these plans with the JMU community in the coming weeks, following forthcoming guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and the Office of the Governor related to the reopening of higher education institutions.

In the meantime, our intention is to begin classes in late August as planned, and adhere to our normal academic calendar, concluding classes in mid-December. Of course, conditions in the coming months could alter those plans, but we sincerely believe that returning to the interpersonal learning experience for which JMU is known, as soon as is practicable, is the best and wisest course forward. More soon.

Until then, here are new updates related to university operations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Thank you to the more than 20,000 of you who contributed your voices to surveys related to JMU’s operations during COVID-19. Your feedback has been valuable and informative as we continue with our planning. We are also actively planning necessary modifications (e.g., in scheduling, use of technology, online and hybrid options for certain classes, room assignments, etc.) to accommodate physical distancing needs as well as particular health concerns of faculty, staff and students. We are working with all academic units across campus on detailed plans and will share more information as soon as it is available.
  • The Madison for Keeps emergency student assistance campaign exceeded its May 31st goal of raising $750,000 and helping at least 150 students this fall who have reported dire financial circumstances due to the pandemic shutdown. We anticipate receiving more appeals for assistance in the semesters to come as the economy continues to be negatively affected by the pandemic. Please keep on the lookout for future Madison for Keeps appeals, and thank you! This generosity is in addition to the roughly $6 million in CARES Act assistance provided by the federal government for students who incurred “expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child-care expenses.” We have helped over 6,026 students to date secure CARES Act funding.
  • While university employees have been working diligently on campus and remotely all throughout the disruption in normal operations, on-campus staffing will increase as the university carefully resumes some on-site functions and services on June 15, kicking off a phased return throughout the summer. Extensive guidelines and updated procedures for how the university plans to make this return as safe as possible can be found here. As part of the guidance, employees are to wear masks in university buildings unless they are in a private space or office with the door closed, or are suitably distanced.
  • Virtual Summer Springboard sessions have begun for new students, with transfer students meeting this week and first-year students beginning June 22 and running through July 16.
  • In-person Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020 are still planned for Aug 7-8. More information to graduating students and their families is forthcoming, including a request for RSVPs so the university can plan according to expected attendance levels.

Finally, we cannot overemphasize the fact that JMU continues to plan for returning this fall in a very dynamic situation. New information emerges daily, and we must all continue to adapt together in a swirl of competing and evolving information. But this one very important fact drives our motivation in planning: While living through a pandemic of this scale and disruptive force is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for just about every living person, so is the experience of living through the college experience.

While COVID-19 is not going away in the near future, we owe it to our students—our children and our future leaders—to commit to our very best efforts as we devise how we can convene together this fall. These young people will not have another chance at now. So, we know the why of what we do. It’s the how we’ll work toward together and resolutely, utilizing all of the brainpower and ingenuity available in this terrific community of James Madison University.

Jonathan Alger
President, James Madison University

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Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 7, 2020

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