The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) is back open after COVID-19 caused a campus-wide shut down on March 18th.
SVHEC Executive Director Dr. Betty Adams released the agency’s COVID-19 reopening plan and discussed new guidelines and safety protocols during a recent virtual town hall meeting with SVHEC staff and partners.
“This situation is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s scary and its strange. But I’m so proud of how everyone has been handling, and continues to handle, such a unique situation,” Adams stated during the town hall meeting.
“In order for us to safely and successfully reopen, we’re going to have to continue pulling together. I know we’re up to this task, and I’m committed to keeping us safe,” Adams continued.
At the beginning of August, SVHEC welcomed back students in the IT Academy, Mechatronics, and Welding programs who had their training paused when the campus closed in March. On August 24th, SVHEC will welcome back students enrolled in college degree programs through Danville and Southside Virginia Community Colleges, Longwood University, and Old Dominion University.
Although classes will be held, SVHEC will not be open to the general public, and facilities are not available for rental. Only individuals enrolled in classes at the SVHEC or who have an appointment with a staff member or partner will be allowed to access the building.
Prior to entering the building, all students and individuals with appointments, will now have to check-in. During this process, SVHEC staff will verify class enrollment or appointment time, and provide an entry badge and wristband. Additionally, all individuals must complete a COVID-19 screening self-check and wear a facial covering while inside the building. Facial coverings will not be worn in class if social distancing can be maintained.
Classrooms, labs, offices, and public spaces have been arranged to accommodate social distancing. SVHEC has also enhanced its cleaning and sanitization schedule so that all classrooms and labs are sanitized aftereach use. Cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer has been placed in every classroom and office suite, and plexiglass shields have been installed at the front desk and other high-contact work spaces.
“We’re going to limit our exposure by limiting the number of people in our building at any one time. We recognize that these new procedures may make our buildings and classrooms feel less welcoming than in the past, and that’s been hard for us to accept. But we believe this is the best course of action to balance providing access to college degrees and job training with our commitment to keeping our facilities as clean and safe as possible,” Adams stated.
To manage the on-going threat of COVID-19, SVHEC has formed a taskforce, and appointed Amy Cole, SVHEC Director of Student and Partner Advancement, as the COVID-19 Coordinator. In this role, she manages and coordinates the SVHEC’s COVID-19 response, including staying in touch with the Virginia Department of Health, staying current of the latest CDC guidelines, tracking COVID-19 testing within the local community, and serving as a resource for SVHEC staff, students, and partners.
SVHEC officials are also strongly encouraging staff, partners, and students to download the Commonwealth’s new COVIDWISE contact tracing mobile app. Released on August 5th, COVIDWISE is a secure way to alert users if they have been in contact with someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
“We are committed to supporting students, partners, and staff through this unprecedented time. We’re all in this together, and I’m confident that by continuing to work together we’ll get through this,” Adams said.
For more information, or to view the SVHEC Reopening Plan, visit www.svhec.org/reopening. All questions may be directed to Amy Cole, COVID-19 Coordinator, at 434-572-5441 or .
For more information on the COVIDWISE app, visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/covidwise/.