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FAQs for graduate students regarding the university's COVID-19 directives

Virginia Tech began its fall semester in August, offering students classes in three modalities: online, in-person, or a hybrid combination. Students who test positive are asked to isolate, while students and others who come in contact with someone who tests positive for the disease are asked to quarantine.

All employees and students have been adhering to public health guidelines, which include wearing face masks or coverings in public, observing physical distancing, avoiding crowds, and frequently washing hands or using hand sanitizer. Classrooms were modified to decrease capacity to avoid potential spread of COVID-19. The university curtailed many in-person events, decided to switch to online-only course instruction after Thanksgiving Break, including final exams, and will hold a virtual commencement for fall 2020 graduates in December. 

On October 19, President Tim Sands announced the plan for the spring 2021 semester. Semester classes will begin Tuesday, January 19 and will be online for the first week, before switching to the modality listed in the course schedule. Spring course requests will begin for students on Tuesday, October 27, with an updated timetable of classes. Add/drop request can be made beginning December 3.

Instead of a traditional week-long spring break, the university will offer five one-day breaks throughout the semester. They will be February 5 and 25, March 17, April 6 and 26. The breaks will have no classes, assignments, nor assessments. 

Spring semester classes will end on May 5 and finals will be held May 7-12. The university has not yet decided what format will be used for spring commencement ceremonies, but the dates remain the same: with Graduate Commencement scheduled for Thursday, May 13 and the Northern Virginia Commencement Ceremony scheduled for Sunday, May 16. 

You'll find up to date information on the university's Ready page. You also can find updated Graduate Education information on the Graduate School's Ready Information for 2020-21 webpage

We are assembling a list of questions and answers based on those that have been shared by students and faculty members and will post those soon. 

"I think it is important that we continue to communicate," Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw said during a virtual town hall fon October 22. "We will do everything we can to communicate changes or what we are doing. ... It is the uncertainty and unknowing that can add to the stress." We are endeavoring to provide up-to-date and accurate information as we receive it. 

(Updated: October 22, 2020)


What are the university’s plans if there is an increase in COVID-19 cases on campus or in the region?

The University is prepared to transition in-person course instruction to online should the need arise.

What is the university doing to with classrooms to ensure safety?

Virginia Tech' facilities crews have been reconfiguring classroom spaces to provide 6 feet of space between students. This has reduced the capacity of instruction spaces. There will be hand santizer stations outside each classroom, and instructors will wear face shields if they are teaching in front of students. You can find out more about VT's efforts to follow public health guidelines in classrooms in this article

What personal hygiene protocols will be expected of me?

The university will follow the governor’s guidelines for personal hygiene related to public health. Face coverings or masks will be required in all campus buildings, and also outside on campus grounds if physical distancing is not possible. Students, faculty, and staff members are expected to observe social distancing guidelines of six feet between individuals. All university community members are expected to continue frequent handwashing and using hand sanitizer when handwashing is not possible. 

(updated October 22, 2020)

With classes switching to online for the remainder of the semester after Thanksgiving break, will I be able to continue my research on campus after the Thanksgiving Break? 

Dean DePauw recently stated that graduate students will be able to continue their research on campus after Thanksgiving break. GRAs can continue to work in their labs. 

Additionally, the Office for Research and Innovation has released information about research operations after Thanksgiving Break. The key paragraph for graduate students is posted below: 

  • Graduate students: All graduate for-credit instruction with the exception of research through project/thesis/dissertation credits will move to virtual participation only. Students participating in project/thesis/dissertation work and paid graduate student workers may continue in research labs with appropriate approvals and protocols in place. Graduate student research questions may be directed to: Dean Karen DePauw,

(updated October 28, 2020)

I am a GTA this year. Where can I find information from the university for instructors about teaching and learning? 

The Office of the Provost has developed a web page for all instructors, including GTAs, with links to resources and other information: Preparing for Teaching and Learning in Fall 2020

What is the latest date that an international student must schedule a visa interview for spring semester before a department may rescind the assistantship offer?

If an international student is unable to schedule a visa interview by Friday, Dec 11 (with an interview date before the spring semester begins), the hiring department may rescind the assistantship offer and extend it to another student. The hiring department must:

  • Notify the student that the offer has been withdrawn due to the student’s inability to arrive in the U.S. in time for the spring semester, and work with the student on potentially deferring admission and assistantship offer to a future term
  • Request the termination of the assistantship contract at this web link
  • Notify the Cranwell International Center by emailing to regarding the termination of the contract and potential deferral of admission, so that the student’s SEVIS record can be updated.

(updated october 26, 2020)

What about our campuses in the Washington, D.C. area, Roanoke, and beyond? 

The University's FAQs includes a page focused on our campuses in the Washington D.C. area, Roanoke, and other locations, that are updated regularly. We will share more details as we receive them, too. 

Where can I found out how many members of the Blacksburg university community have tested positive for COVID-19?

The University has developed a COVID-19 Dashboard, which it updates weekly. (Updated August 26, 2020)

Where can I get current and accurate information about COVID-19 at Virginia Tech?

The university recently launched the COVID-19 call center, also known as the COVID-19 Hotline, to help all members of the university community get information and answers on matters related to the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number is 540-231-7600.

The  helpline is staffed Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. with personnel from across university academic, administrative, and student affairs units to assist callers with their questions. Those who call with questions that cannot be immediately answered will receive a call back.

After November 2, the helpline will be staffed Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. On weekends voicemail will be checked and calls returned 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 

(updated October 29, 2020)

Can I get a COVID-19 test from Schiffert Health Center if I am in Blacksburg?

Schiffert Health Center is offering tests to all students, and is holding regular walk-in test clinics on weekends throughout the fall semester. 

Are tests available for students at campuses in the Washington, D.C. area? 

Virginia Tech is offering COVID-19 testing in the D.C. metro area. Students and faculty are encouraged to register as the tests are by appointment only. See this notice for more information about what dates and where tests will be offered. 

How do I report a positive COVID-19 test?

This flowchart provides guidance for how to report symptoms or a positive test. (updated October 22, 2020)

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