More universities delay students’ return to campus due to COVID-19


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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Two more schools in Hampton Roads have decided to push back the return of students to campus this fall due to the upward trend of COVID-19 cases in the region.

On Friday, Christopher Newport University and William & Mary made announcements regarding their fall semester start dates.

CNU will now start Aug. 31 instead of Aug. 17. William & Mary’s undergraduate classes will start on-schedule Aug. 19, but undergraduate in-person return to campus is delayed until after Labor Day.

On Thursday, Old Dominion University also announced a similar plan to push back the semester start date.


CNU President Paul Trible sent the message about the changed start date to students, parents, faculty and staff Friday.

“We are delaying the start of classes by two weeks out of an abundance of caution and concern for our students, faculty and staff, but we look forward to welcoming our freshmen and returning students to campus in late August,” Trible wrote.

Any students who wish to remain home and take classes from there instead of moving into the CNU residence halls will be able to do so without penalty.

Those within commuting distance can still attend in-person classes, even if they opt-out of living in residence halls. In-person classes are being livestreamed for those who need to attend remotely.

Those who are moving back to campus with nine-month contracts should receive more information in the coming week regarding move-in. Students who have 10- and 12-month contracts can move in as they were originally scheduled, although dining options will be limited until classes begin.

Information on how to cancel housing contracts and meal plans will be provided early next week. Students who opt-out before the move-in date will receive full refunds for room and board.

Norfolk State

Norfolk State University plans to give a COVID-19 test to every student who is returning to campus this fall — and therefore is delaying in-person return to campus to give more time.

The semester will still start on time on Aug. 26, but faculty and students will have remote classes for the first two weeks.

Every student that comes to campus will be tested for COVID-19. Tests will also be offered to all faculty and staff. Testing will likely start Aug. 29.

While classes will be online for the first two weeks, students will return to campus in a phased-in approach. First-year students will come back between Aug. 29 and Sept. 1.

Other students will come back between Sept. 2 and 7.

Specific dates for arrival will be given to students based on their housing assignments.

William & Mary

Wiliam & Mary President Katherine Rowe also announced the change in plans for students returning to campus on Friday.

Students will still begin undergraduate classes Aug. 19, but remotely.

“I know how disappointing the shift in arrival on campus will be for many students – who are so looking forward to returning – also how disruptive to families as they plan travel. It is equally disruptive for faculty and staff. An enormous amount of work has taken place to prepare our campus community for a successful fall and that work continues in earnest,” Rowe wrote in a letter to campus Friday.

Both undergraduate and graduate classes will be on their regularly-scheduled days.

“Extending the time between phases of return allows us to welcome new students in our community safely, helping them form connections. This slower pace is also a good opportunity to establish and systematically reinforce compliance with our Healthy Together Community Commitment and our new health rules – mask wearing, social distancing and more. So over the coming weeks, W&M will be repeatedly stressing the new rules via regular guidance, online training, signage and more,” Rowe wrote.

William & Mary will have more information during its Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5.

Old Dominion University

The university said it rescheduled the first day of classes for Aug. 29 after considering the current COVID-19 trends in Hampton Roads and in light of Gov. Ralph Northam’s recently-adopted restrictions in Executive Order 68, which limits the size of gatherings among other things.

“Although we had hoped to begin the semester early on August 15, several factors persuaded us to reschedule our opening. Current projections suggest that the incidence of COVID-19 will likely pose a higher risk to our region in the coming weeks,” ODU President John R. Broderick said in a news release Thursday.

Delaying the start of the semester allows ODU to further prepare and expand capacity for its own COVID-19 testing center on campus, the release said.

The university’s reopening plan, which included provisions in case the coronavirus caused unpredictable changes, is still solid despite the reopening date change.

Here is the new schedule:

  • September 7 – Labor Day holiday (no classes held).
  • There will be no fall break.
  • November 3 – Election Day holiday (no classes held).
  • November 25 to 29 – Thanksgiving break (no classes held).
  • After Thanksgiving break, all classes will be delivered online through December 11.
  • December 12 to 18 – Final exams will be administered online.

More information is available at If you have questions, please email

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