Criteria and Process for Dismissals or Shutdowns

JMU is prepared for a partial or total campus closure at any point during the semester. If classes can no longer be held safely on campus, we plan to pivot to remote and online instruction, as we did successfully in Spring 2020.

Decisions regarding dismissals and shutdowns will be made in consultation with local and state public health officials. The university will communicate these decisions to the campus community as outlined in the established University Crisis Communications Plan, which was developed in collaboration with the Office of Public Safety and is detailed in Section D.4..

Reduced Campus Activity

JMU is prepared to tighten or change restrictions as needed to comply with severe conditions and public health guidance. All students and employees will be reminded that we may need to make adaptations quickly during the upcoming academic year in order to address changing circumstances.

Health and Safety on Campus v. Returning Home

The considerations in determining student health and safety on campus versus going home are complicated and influenced by a variety of factors. In terms of reopening, the CDC developed criteria of risk. Based on these criteria, JMU’s plans for reopening fall into the ‘more risk’ category for the general settings and ‘high’ risk for on campus housing. These criteria have informed the JMU reopening plans as we attempt to minimize risk.

If an outbreak occurs, the factors that affect student health and safety by remaining on campus versus returning home are as follows:

  • Students needing isolation or quarantine will be strongly encouraged to return home, which we believe will optimize the physical and mental well-being of those students. In addition, it will decrease the risk of these students breaking isolation or quarantine and thereby being a source of infection to others.
  • If an outbreak occurs, students with underlying medical conditions making them vulnerable should consider returning home to minimize their risk of becoming ill.
  • Some categories of students should remain on campus for quarantine or isolation to maximize either their safety or the safety of others. These include international students or U.S. students who do not have a home in the U.S. to return to; those with a vulnerable individual at home; those who require public transportation to return or those who are unable to physically quarantine or isolate.
  • There are external concerns that affect whether the student would be safest on campus versus at home. If there is an outbreak at home with a disease prevalence higher than that at JMU, it will be safest for the student to remain on campus. If there is an individual at home with COVID-19, it will be safer for the student to remain at JMU.

Communications Plan for Dismissals/Shutdowns

The University Crisis Communications Plan contains detailed guidance in close collaboration with the Office of Public Safety on how emergency messaging is delivered to the campus community in a timely manner. The plan contains three phases:

  • Response
  • Reassurance
  • Recovery

Typically, the first two phases are over in a matter of hours or days. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the university will not shift into the Recovery phase until a vaccine is widely available. Consequently, the crisis communications plan will remain through the summer and into the fall semester and beyond if necessary.

Responses from surveys of parents and students in May revealed that the crisis communications response by the university beginning in March and continuing through the spring semester was widely viewed as effective.

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