JMU News

Fall 2020: The Way Forward


Dear JMU Family,


Since we last communicated with all of you regarding our intention to resume on-campus operations this fall, we have been hard at work developing plans and protocols in accordance with public health guidance to safeguard our community’s health and safety. I write today to communicate specifics of our reopening plan. Like universities across the country, JMU continues to plan for returning this fall in a very dynamic situation, but our paramount goal has always been and will continue to be protecting the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and the greater Harrisonburg community.  


The hallmark of the JMU educational experience is the interaction between our students and faculty in classrooms, labs, studios and creative spaces, and we are excited to welcome students back to campus under the following procedures. The following guidance focuses on students. Further guidance for employees can be found on JMU’s online Return to the Workplace webpage.


Students will be expected to answer health screening questions prior to returning to campus, and on a daily basis this fall.

Prior to returning to campus, students are expected to complete health screening questions on the LiveSafe phone app or through a computer logon. Based on these responses, students will either be permitted to proceed to campus or will be provided instructions for follow-up and information on how to receive support. Once back on campus, students will be asked to complete this health screening each day. Students will receive more information in the coming weeks on this process.


Everyone on campus will be required to wear a face mask where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Faculty, staff and students are required to wear face masks at all times when in classrooms, labs, studios and other public settings (indoors and outdoors) where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain. This includes wearing a mask at all times in the classroom, or face shields at all times in labs or studios. Students are required to provide their own masks, and should bring the following items with them this fall:

  • Several washable and reusable face masks
  • A thermometer
  • Hand sanitizer (Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance to each building and in every classroom and lab.) 
  • Disinfectant wipes 


Students will need to make responsible decisions about off-campus activities. JMU will offer a variety of educational resources and trainings to help.

Off-campus gatherings pose a great risk to our students’ and community’s health and well-being, and we need our students to make responsible decisions about hosting and attending off-campus events. The university will provide significant guidance and direction to students through online training that students can access prior to campus reopening, in-person education during new student orientation, and through an ongoing awareness campaign reminding the JMU community to practice behaviors that mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As we enter this new academic year, all of us in the university community are accountable to make responsible and thoughtful decisions to protect one another.


It is our intention is to adhere to our normal academic calendar.

As previously communicated, it is our hope to begin classes in late August as planned, observe Fall and Thanksgiving breaks, and conclude classes in mid-December. While it is our intent to keep students on campus for the duration of the semester, health conditions could require us to pivot back to online learning at any point during the semester. We are working to deliver to students the most robust Madison Experience possible by planning to adhere to the scheduled academic calendar, if health conditions allow. Throughout this process, we have sought to maximize flexibility so that we can continue to address and respond to evolving information and public health circumstances.


Cleaning and disinfecting protocols for buildings on campus will be enhanced.

Classrooms and labs will be cleaned three times each day, and cleaning supplies will also be available in each computer lab for people to clean their workstations between formal cleanings. Additionally, plexiglass shields will be installed in front of each podium in all classrooms. Dining Services has also added deep sanitation times to ensure that tables are sanitized between guests, and cleaning efforts will also be increased throughout all common spaces in residence halls.


Class times and locations could shift to accommodate classroom cleaning and physical distancing, and some classes could need to be offered wholly or partially online.

JMU has modified the course schedule to allow for two new hour-long cleaning blocks during the day. As a result, some students might take classes later than normal in the evening. Some students’ classes might need to split to accommodate physical distancing, where half the class meets in-person one class while the other half meets online, and then switches. Also, in order to facilitate physical distancing, spaces not traditionally used for classroom instruction, such as ballrooms or large auditoriums, will be used as classrooms. In certain instances, some courses will be offered online (e.g., some large lecture courses). Accommodations will also be made for students who need to take classes online rather than in-person due to underlying health considerations.  Some students might notice changes in location for their selected classes. Students’ schedules are expected to be finalized by July 21.  


JMU will employ a COVID-19 surveillance, testing and contact tracing strategy.

University health officials will analyze data tracked from daily health screenings that all students, faculty and staff will complete through the LiveSafe app. This will provide an overall picture of health and create a COVID-19 tracking system for the campus community. For any students meeting CDC and/or Virginia Department of Health (VDH) criteria for COVID-19 testing, a specimen will be collected at the University Health Center (UHC).


Isolation and quarantine policies will be deployed.

Students who have symptoms and/or are undergoing testing, have had close contact with a known positive case, or test positive for COVID-19 will all require some length of isolation or quarantine. Students living off campus will be expected to quarantine or isolate at their off-campus housing if they are unable to return home to do so. Students living on campus will have their isolation or quarantine needs evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, students who can safely travel home to isolate or quarantine will be encouraged to do so. This will be the best option for many students, as they can be with family and receive support for their overall health and well-being. The university will work to continue providing academic material for these students while they are out of classes and provide additional support as needed. Students who are unable to travel home—e.g., because they cannot do so safely (such as international students or U.S. students who do not have a home to return to), or because their home environment might include individuals with underlying conditions who could be at higher risk—will be moved to isolation.


In addition to what is outlined above, the university’s entire working plan can be found here. While subject to change, it has information related to on-campus housing, extracurricular activities, public transportation, dining operations, accommodations for higher-risk students and other important topics. Thank you for your patience and resilience as we work to navigate these challenging times together.  


Please email with general questions about the university reopening that are not mentioned in our reopening plan. If you have questions about your specific situation, please be in touch with the relevant department or responsible office so you can get the most efficient and timely response to your question.


With warm regards,

Jonathan R. Alger

President, James Madison University 


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Published: Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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