Virginia colleges prep for Spring semester, VSU spends $2.8 million on COVID-19 safety upgrades


PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC)– Virginia universities are preparing for the start of the Spring semester as COVID-19 cases are surging.

Today, Virginia State University welcomed students back to campus with new safety measures in place. The university is just one of several colleges implementing procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

VSU spent $2.8 million to make COVID-19 safety upgrades, like implementing technology to improve air quality in the historic buildings. Jane Harris, Assistant Vice President for Facilities at VSU, said many of buildings on the campus were not designed for modern ventilation. Of the 11 residence halls, seven were built in the 1920’s.

Prior to welcoming students back to campus, the older buildings were upgraded with bi-polar ionization devices, HEPA air filters and Dry Hydrogen Peroxide Disinfectant Systems to break down unhealthy bacteria.

“We really put our heads together thinking about what we could do in terms of in-room filtration and air purification,” said Harris.

The VSU purchased and installed 311 new bi-polar ionization and retrofitted 154 units. The technology was placed in damp areas such as basements, locker rooms and community bathrooms. According to Harris, this will help with mold control.

The university also has added drop boxes, where students and faculty can drop off documents without contact.

As students returned to campus today, the university began testing them for COVID-19. Students must take two tests, including a rapid COVID-19 test, and VSU added temperature kiosks as part of a monitoring process. This will be a contactless temperature check.

According to Harris, safety was a priority for everyone on VSU’s campus.

“When parents and loved ones send their child away to college, they expect them to be cared for as carefully and as thoughtfully as a parent would take care of their own child,” Harris said.

Classes for VSU will begin on Feb. 1.

The University of Richmond is taking a similar approach for the Spring semester. The university requires all students to test negative for COVID-19 before the first day of classes, Jan. 19.

UR’s website it states:

“While there is promising information about vaccines, it is unlikely that we will see widespread availability for college students until late spring or early summer.”

University of Richmond

Randolph-Macon College has the same requirement. The college is continuing the semester under a ‘significant risk category.’ Testing capacity and/or quarantine/isolation space is available but is facing increased demands.

Virginia Commonwealth University on the other hand has a virtual start planned for Monday, Jan. 25.

“We are in the third and most virulent surge of the COVID-19 virus. The COVID-19 infection rate is at its highest since the pandemic began,” said Michael Rao, who is the President of VCU and the VCU Health System. “Models suggest the number of cases in Virginia will continue to rise into February. They already are four times higher than at the beginning of the fall semester. So, with your health and safety as a primary concern, we are adjusting how VCU will start the spring semester. As pandemic conditions improve, we have every intention to resume in-person instruction as originally planned.”

The University will also implements a new Entry Pass, which records completed health checks and will be required to enter certain VCU facilities on campus starting Jan. 25. If your Entry Pass shows a green check, that means you’ve completed your daily health check and, if applicable, complied with asymptomatic surveillance testing.

VCU said it will re-evaluate next month in hopes of moving forward with in-person and hybrid courses on or before March 8th.


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