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Students return to several Hampton Roads college campuses to start in-person classes

TCC, Regent and Virginia Wesleyan are just a few colleges bringing students back for their first day of in-person instruction.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Several local colleges resumed in-person classes Monday.

Those include Regent University, Tidewater Community College and Virginia Wesleyan University.

So how are schools protecting people on campus? And what are school officials going to do, if students refuse to follow new coronavirus rules?

Well, to start, at Regent University you can see the changes as soon as you walk in the door.

With signs and extra sanitation stations, Regent University officials let students know they have to follow new COVID-19 rules on campus.

Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño is the executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

“We care for them, we want to educate them well, and we are taking every precaution to do so,” said Moreno-Riaño.

He told us those precautions incude emailing students self-screening questionnaires and testing everyone for COVID-19 before the start of the year.

The school is also subjecting students to additional periodic randomized testing as time goes on.

From the first day of in-person classes, Regent set aside spaces for quarantining.

The school also teamed up with epidemiologists, the Virginia Department of Health and a team in North Carolina to provide extra coronavirus testing kits.

The rapid spread of coronavirus is a growing concern with colleges and universities nationwide sending everyone home, shortly after returning to school. Small outbreaks have broken out on UNC-Chapel Hill's and North Carolina State's campuses. So, it's no secret that the college-age group tends to test the limits.

Moreno-Riaño said there are potential penalties for students, depending on how much a student breaks the rules.

“Expulsion if we have to. But right now, just almost an entire month of students being on campus, we haven’t had any issues whatsoever,” said Moreno-Riaño.

Senior Caden Arendt said policies can be annoying.

“I’m sure a lot of students can relate to that, but ultimately we are thankful to be back,” said Arendt.

To him, the desire to be on campus means he and his peers will follow the new rules. 

"Seeing the other schools shut down, it’s just even more incentive to follow the rules," Arendt said.

Also at Tidewater Community College, even though about 90% of classes are online, hundreds of students are returning to campus for in-person classes on the first day of school and they're returning to new coronavirus guidelines.

Those rules also include requiring students to wear masks, spread out, and stay apart if possible.

Michelle Woodhouse is the Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. 

“A very different classroom set-up than what students are used to working with,” said Woodhouse.

She said she’s aware other colleges have had to send people back home, after letting students return to campus and a COVID-19 outbreak occurs.

Woodhouse said students could face repercussions if they don’t follow the health safety guidelines the colleges put in place.

“If you want to continue with those few face-to-face courses that we are offering, then these are the things we need to really be mindful of,” said Woodhouse.

Those penalizations could include a consequence from the process in the student code of conduct, like getting called to the Dean’s office and it could result in a student getting removed from campus.

Student Evan Ball said people are following the rules so far.

“Being in the health care building, people are taking extra precautions and the faculty is doing the best they can with offering online classes, which is absolutely fantastic,” said Ball.

How about off-campus?

Ball said even though TCC doesn’t have housing, he expects students will test the waters with not staying apart.

“We’re always going to have those people,” said Ball.

However, he feels the policies that TCC has in place on campus, and potential penalties, help detour breaking the rules.