Frequently Asked Questions

  What decisions have been made regarding a temporary transition to online classes?

JMU will transition to primarily online learning through the month of September. In-person classes will transition online no later than Monday, Sept. 7. Additionally, on-campus residents who are not currently in quarantine or isolation will be asked to return home by Sept. 7 unless they seek an exemption to stayOver the next month, university officials will carefully monitor health trends and other developments and will be in touch with the campus community by Sept. 25 regarding the possibility of returning to in-person instruction on or after Oct. 5.  

 Why did the university decide to offer in-person instruction this fall?

We began this year with a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online classes. We weighed many factors when deciding to offer in-person instruction. Relationships in and outside the classroom are what make JMU such a special place, and those interactions can be difficult to emulate online. We know, that for this reason and many others, in-person instruction is preferred by most of our students and families when possible. From an equity and access perspective, we also know that our students from less advantaged backgrounds struggle disproportionality with online learning due to challenges with access to stable internet and reliable technology. 

 Why did JMU decide to move online for four weeks?

Since the start of the pandemic, our number one guiding principle for decision-making has been protecting public health and safety. In recent days we observed an abrupt uptick in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in our students. Case counts escalated at a very rapid pace, and we became concerned with our ability to offer isolation and quarantine space to all those students who need it. Given these conditions, and with the advice of medical personnel, we acted decisively to depopulate our campus and reduce viral spread. 

 But your dashboard says you have some available isolation and quarantine space?

We have observed that the need for isolation and quarantine space can increase very quickly. In some situations, individuals who are positive with COVID-19 can have potentially exposed dozens of others, necessitating their quarantine and rapidly filling beds. There are also stipulations on how the spaces can be used. For example, quarantine and isolation spaces are gender-specific, which limits the ways in which available beds can be used.   

 What will change between now and resuming in-person instruction on or after Oct. 5?

In the time our courses are fully online, we will work closely with the Virginia Department of Health to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the JMU population, particularly through depopulating campus as well as with continued testing and contact tracing efforts, while continuing to monitor local and national conditions. We will be making further revisions as needed to address the types of spaces, events and interactions that can lead to rapid spread. We will also work to increase our isolation and quarantine capacity even further so it will be available should we need it going forward. 

 Why are you choosing to send some students home?

JMU is not sending sick students home. The university will not be sending home students who have COVID-19 and are in isolation, or those who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19 and are currently quarantining. Those students have been instructed to finish out their prescribed time in either isolation or quarantine here in Harrisonburg before returning home. We are also recommending that all students quarantine for 14 days when they return home to address the possibility of viral spread to other communities.

 What are the conditions under which a student will be allowed to stay in the residence halls?

There are a number of reasons the university will allow students to stay in the residence halls. Examples include, but are not limited to: Having a vulnerable family member at home, the need to finish quarantine or isolation, transportation issues, inadequate access to internet at home, or lack of food or housing security outside of JMU.

 What will the quality of online learning look like?

Our faculty are professionals who are committed to providing their students with the best learning opportunities possible regardless of delivery mode. Many spent the summer preparing to make their online classes innovative and high-quality, participating in workshops and other trainings the university offered. The university also invested in video equipment and technology to support faculty in that effort, including acquiring Zoom, a leading video conferencing platform. 

 What services will the university continue to offer?

While courses will move primarily online during this four-week period, the university will remain open, and continue to offer on-campus amenities such as dining, health and wellness services. Academic support services will be available in person and virtually. In addition, services such as counseling and other forms of assistance will continue to be available to all students, whether on or off-campus. 

 Did you test all students before they returned to JMU, and will you test them all before they leave?

JMU did not mass screen all students before they arrived, as we were following CDC and VDH guidance. Both the CDC and the VDH recommend against testing asymptomatic individuals who have no concerning contact history. The CDC specifically stated that it “does not recommend entry testing of all returning students, faculty and staff.”  JMU will not be mass testing the students who are departing now, as that inhibits our University Health Center’s ability to test symptomatic people who are much more likely to have COVID-19 and need to be identified. We are working with individuals who have already tested positive, had close contact with someone who tested positive, or who might be exhibiting symptoms. 

 Will off-campus students be asked to leave?

Most of our students live off-campus and maintain leases with private companies, meaning their living arrangement are outside of the university’s purview. Students living off-campus will need to make the choice for themselves to stay or leave temporarily based on their individual situations. They will also need to continue to adhere to JMU’s COVID-19 Student Agreement.

 Will students who stay be held to the same COVID-19 Student Agreement they agreed to?

Yes. Most of our students have done an excellent job of following the protocols set forth in our COVID-19 Student Agreement, which include mask-wearing and physical distancing, and prohibit any social gatherings of more than 10 people. However, it only takes a few individuals making poor decisions to enable a very rapid spread of this disease. Students who have been and will continue to be reported for flagrantly violating the university’s expectations could face charges through the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices, which could result in sanctions, including suspensions. 

 When is the university’s withdrawal date?

JMU’s withdrawal date, or the date to withdraw from JMU without any financial penalty, for years has been Sept. 15. In an effort to help families given the current uncertainties and challenges of these times, students can withdraw until Oct. 10.

Students who submit their completed Non-returning/Leave of Absence form to the Office of the Registrar by September 15, 2020 will receive a 100% refund of tuition and mandatory fees.

Students who submit their completed Non-returning/Leave of Absence form to the Office of the Registrar between September 16, 2020 and October 10, 2020 will receive a 75% refund of tuition and mandatory fees. 

 What about refunds?

On-campus residents who vacate their residence halls by Sept. 7 will receive a prorated refund for their housing and unused meal punches for four weeks. The amount of the refund will vary according to which housing and meal plan the student has selected. If the meal plan is used during this time, the refund may be reduced and will be prorated by the week.  

For example, there are a large number of students living in a “standard room,” who also have a 14-meal plan. Those individuals will receive $1,044 in housing and dining refunds. In addition, any on-campus resident who vacates their residence hall during this four-week period will receive a $125 refund of their comprehensive fee.  Refunds will be processed as a credit to the student’s account or applied toward any outstanding balance owed at the end of the semester.  

Students will receive a full refund of their parking permit fee if they return their permit to Parking Services no later than Friday, Sept. 11. A full refund will also be issued for student permits returned by mail that are postmarked on or before Friday, Sept.11. No parking permit will be required to park in student lots through Sunday, Oct. 4. All other parking regulations will remain in effect.  

 What is the impact on JMU’s budget?

We know that this academic year will bring some significant budget challenges, but we won’t have a firm sense of the total budget impact until after Oct. 10 (the pro-rated withdrawal date), at which point we will be able to ascertain our total enrollment. Resources are especially constrained this year because we committed to holding tuition constant for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. We also understand that there will be no new funds from the state this year.

 What is the deadline for adding or dropping a course?

The Add/Drop deadline of Friday, Sept. 4 has not changed.

 What about the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County communities?

JMU has been working in lockstep with city and county officials since the onset of the pandemic. We are thankful to the leaders, law enforcement officers and healthcare providers in our local community who are helping to keep our students safe, and thankful to our students whose behavior largely demonstrates to the greater community the care we feel for them. Our decision to pause in-person classes was made based on public health considerations and an abundance of care for the surrounding community as well as for students, faculty and staff.

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