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Campus Communications on COVID-19

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Bluefield College provides regular updates on the developments on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. This page will be updated as information is presented to the community.

Campus Communications

NOVEMBER 13, 2020 @ 5:25 P.M. CAMPUS UPDATE

There is big news to share today.  First, and perhaps the best, is that we only had one student test positive this week.  While zero would be great, having just one positive case isn’t bad given the rising numbers we are seeing occur across the country.  I continue to pray that we can make it to the Thanksgiving holiday with little-to-no additional positive cases.

Students, continue to be vigilant these remaining two weeks before you return home.  Stay around campus and hang out with those who are limiting their exposure to the virus.  Give laser focus to your remaining class sessions and stay caught up or ahead of your assignments.  Let’s finish the fall semester strong…Rams strong!

Now, for other big news, Governor Northam announced new restrictions this afternoon on group gatherings.  You cannot be in a group of more than 25 individuals, indoors or outdoors.  I have reached out to the Virginia Secretary of Education to gain clarity as to whether there are any exceptions, particularly related to sports competitions.  Student-athletes, as soon as we know, we will share that information with you.

Obviously, the trend lines related to the COVID-19 virus are not good.  The steps Governor Northam and other governors are taking are meant to protect each of us, our neighbors, and our communities.  PLEASE continue to practice good hygiene, mask-wearing, social distancing, and decision-making in order to maintain a safe and healthy living and learning environment.  For those planning to return home for Thanksgiving, do this for your family.  For those who are planning to stay here, do this for your campus community.  WE CAN DO THIS!

Finally, there is more BIG news—exciting news—about the next academic year that I can’t wait to share with you!  But, you’ll have to wait.  (How’s that for a tease?)  Stay tuned.  An announcement will be coming soon regarding the big things that are in the works for Bluefield College and you in the coming year.

Partnering with you in faithful service, to God and to one another,

David

OCTOBER 30, 2020 @ 4:58 P.M. CAMPUS UPDATE

We are moving in a positive direction, and I am pleased to share that no one tested positive this week!  We have a few students still in quarantine or isolation, but most of them will be released at the beginning of next week.  Everyone is to be commended for continuing to practice the big three—wearing a mask / social distancing / keeping your hands clean and the surfaces you touch clean. 

Be on guard, however.  Southwest Virginia has the highest spike in COVID-19 cases than any other region in the Commonwealth.  So, we need to remain focused and diligent in using common sense and making good decisions.  Students, this Halloween weekend may seem to be a great opportunity to get off campus and socialize.  Just remember, should you not use common sense and not make good decisions, you are likely to suffer other consequences beyond just picking up the virus.  We are serious in our desire to complete this semester without any more positive cases, and some of your fellow students who have been sent home for the remainder of the semester will attest to that. 

I encourage you to stay on campus.  Enjoy the Black Panther tonight, and engage in the Halloween activities planned here on campus tomorrow evening.  As a note of interest, there will be a full moon visible across the entire country tomorrow night for the first time since 1944.  This will also be a rare “blue moon,” meaning it is a second full moon in a single month.  Enjoy!

Looking ahead, the faculty and college leadership have arrived at an altered spring semester schedule.  You will soon find on the College website the new 2021 Spring Academic Calendar.  The major change is with spring break.  As a COVID-19 precaution, we are combining spring break with the Easter weekend.  Rather than providing two opportunities for students to be away from campus during the spring semester, there will now only be this one.  Also, be on the lookout for protocols related to your return to campus in January, as well as the conditions of your return to campus following spring break.

One final reminder, if you haven’t voted yet, please do!  Our democracy works best when everyone participates in the elections of our governmental leaders and representatives.  For the winners, may they and their supporters exhibit humility and graciousness as the elected seek to govern for all, not just particular groups.  For the defeated, may they take solace in knowing they had the courage and made the effort in order to serve our country; and to their supporters, may they have respect for the victors and give them an opportunity to prove themselves.  For everyone, may we live together as one nation; may we pray, as scripture teaches, for our leaders; may we exhibit the love of Christ to our neighbor, especially to the neighbor who voted for the other candidate; and may we spend more time listening than speaking to one another.

Partnering with you in faithful service,

David

OCTOBER 23, 2020 @ 5:25 P.M. CAMPUS UPDATE

We have made progress in the last few weeks towards having everyone out of quarantine and isolation. We are grateful to those who are still practicing good hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing in order to maintain a safe and healthy living and learning environment. Unfortunately, we are about where we were last week—21 students in quarantine or isolation. As students from last week were coming out of quarantine or isolation, we had a new group of students going into quarantine or isolation. Although 21 may seem like a large number, these cases have been contained to one athletic team.

Since Monday, October 19, we had a total of nine positive cases, five of which tested positive today, October 23. Four cases out of the five were in isolation from exposure earlier in the week. Through contact tracing, it appears most of the positive cases were exposed at an off-campus social gathering. Two of the positive cases have unknown exposures. Thankfully, since the cases have been contained to one athletic team, we can continue in-person instruction at this time.

As a reminder, students who test positive are placed in quarantine for a period of 10 days. Before a student can be released, the student must have a negative test. Thus, a quarantine period could go beyond 10 days should the student continue to test positive. For students who had a negative test result but were in close contact with someone who tested positive, they are placed into isolation for a period of up to 14 days, as symptoms can occur within a two-week period.

Students, please adhere to the College’s COVID-19 protocols and heed our requests that you not engage in gatherings where there is an absence of social distancing and mask-wearing. While you might not suffer serious health consequences, someone else might. Right now, we have a person in our local community, just 36 years old, who is currently being hospitalized because of COVID-19.

The stakes are high and the number of positive cases in surrounding counties continues to rise. Now, more than ever, we need to be examples of servant leaders and consider the interests of others ahead of our own. This is what we mean in our Core Values, particularly in value three: We are a diverse community characterized by integrity, mutual respect, support, and encouragement.

Lastly, many have been wondering what the spring semester will hold. Faculty and college leadership have been working together on a revised spring term schedule, which we hope to announce next week.

OCTOBER 16, 2020 @ 3:49 P.M. COVID-19 UPDATE

Just as the sun has broken through the gray skies and turned this into a beautiful fall afternoon, the highlights of this week outshine those of more recent weeks. A tremendous highlight of this week certainly was the presence of Nigel Darius with us and the meaningful messages he shared during the Duremdes Christian Emphasis Week. Nigel tied his messages together around the themes of our identity, character, and purpose.

We celebrate that a number of students discovered their identity in Christ this week and made professions of faith; and they, along with other students who indicated a desire to grow in better understanding of how to glorify God as they live into their purpose, will be joining together in small groups beginning next week. I am most grateful to Drs. Gene and Jane Duremdes who had the vision—and spirit of generosity—years ago to make this an annual opportunity to have such gifted individuals such as Nigel share God’s word with our campus community. If you happened to miss any of the messages, you can go here to see them.

This has also been a good week as our community continues to adapt to a COVID-19 world. We are down to 18 students who presently are in quarantine or isolation. There are only two active cases, but neither is present on campus. It is my hope and prayer that we will continue learning how to safely interact with one another on campus and be appropriately guarded in our encounters with others out in the community. It would be a tremendous blessing to each one of us if we could complete the next 27 days of class that remain before Thanksgiving break without another positive case or anyone remaining in isolation.

To circle back to Nigel’s remarks this week, we all could benefit from being reminded that each of us has value—we were made in the image of God; each of us is given daily choices—we can choose to embrace characteristics that honor God; and each of us has a purpose—to glorify God through the way we live our lives. Love a neighbor this weekend in the name of Christ!

Joining you in faithful service,

David

OCTOBER 11, 2020 @ 4:09 P.M. RETURN TO IN-CLASS INSTRUCTION

The College Leadership Team received an updated report this afternoon on the number of COVID-19 cases and those in quarantine or isolation; and, given the decrease in both the number of positive cases and those in quarantine and isolation, a decision was reached to return to in-class instruction beginning tomorrow, Oct. 12. The option to continue with Livestream participation still remains for those who are uncomfortable returning to a classroom environment.

Presently, we have five positive cases. Three of those were new cases over the past week, with the most recent case being someone already in isolation. The other two of the five positive cases are students who were already and continue to remain, in quarantine. As a reminder, all quarantined and isolated students must remain secluded from others until each receives a negative test result. The total number of students in quarantine or isolation is 34, with 11 of those students on campus and the remaining students being off-campus.

As a reminder to all residential students who returned home outside of a 50-mile radius of campus, you must be tested upon your arrival to campus. If you are away from campus, please email Erika Bell at ebell@bluefield.edu to schedule a time for your testing. The preferred window for your testing tomorrow is between 9:00 AM-12:30 PM.

Students, please take this request seriously. DO NOT return to your residence room, a classroom, the Marcom Student Center, or anywhere else on campus until you have been tested. You may sit in your car on campus as you await your designated time for testing. Anyone found not to have followed these guidelines will be immediately sent home for the remainder of the semester.

It is our hope that we can finish the fall semester with in-class instruction. Let’s make these next six weeks be meaningful, productive weeks in the classroom by practicing common-sense safeguards for yourself and others, as well as making good decisions in how you spend your free time outside of class and scheduled activities.

One exciting aspect of this week is that this is the Duremdes Spiritual Emphasis Week, featuring Nigel Darius as our guest speaker. You will have three opportunities to hear Nigel, with his first message beginning on Wednesday at 10:00 AM during the chapel hour.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone back in the classrooms and around campus!

Partnering with you in faithful service,

David

SEPTEMBER 27, 2020 @ 5:00 P.M. CAMPUS UPDATE

Dear Campus Community –

Thank you for your patience as we navigate through the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 on and around our campus. The College Leadership Team met this afternoon to assess whether conditions would allow for the return to in-class instruction this week. Regrettably, we do not believe that we can. Thus, classes for traditional students will continue to be online for the next two weeks. We intend to resume in-class instruction on Monday, October 12. Employees will work as directed by their respective Executive Leadership Team member.

Please allow me to share information that led to this decision. First, we continue to have positive cases, and a number of those new cases—too many—are outside the “bubble” of students who are already in quarantine and isolation. After additional testing today, we have had 34 students test positive since September 14. At present, 100 students are either in quarantine or isolation. We also now have four employees and two graduate assistants who have tested positive, along with a handful more who are in isolation and being observed.

Secondly, it is our hope this two-week period will slow the daily number of students who are testing positive, as well as provide a safe environment that lessens the risk of exposure for our employees, especially our faculty. Tazewell County Schools also recently suspended in-class instruction at all of the Bluefield, VA schools with plans to return on October 12; so our timeframe aligns with that of the local public school system.

Students, we need your continued cooperation and engagement. Please continue to abide by the COVID-19 protocols—wearing masks and social distancing—when around other students and individuals, unless in the privacy of your room or outdoor areas. Also, stay connected in your virtual class attendance on Teams (with your camera on!) and current on your assignments. Reach out to ACE if you are needing assistance or wanting tips on how to improve a “B” to an “A.”

As discussed at last Friday’s student forum, our preference is that everyone who is on campus, stay on campus. Your departure from campus, along with that of others, only escalates the risk of someone contracting the virus and bringing it back to the campus. I have been told a number of students already left campus upon last week’s notification of our transition to online instruction. If you left campus and did not tell us, please do so here. If you plan on leaving campus, please let us know.

For anyone who has already left campus or intends to leave, you must stay at your home for a minimum of 14 days, and you must be re-tested when you arrive back to campus. You will receive an email prior to your return with instructions on how and when you will be re-tested.

I know this situation is not ideal. Some think we are being too strict, and others question why we are even trying to have in-class instruction. As I shared on Friday in the forum, I firmly believe the best learning environment happens in the classroom. Thankfully, technology allows direct conversation and “presence” without being present with one another. I pray, students, that you will not give up and that you will continue to strive toward the goal that brought you to Bluefield College—to broaden your minds and deepen your souls as you engage with your faculty and classmates, whether online or in class.

We can do this! You can do this!

Find peace and encouragement in God’s word: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Has the LORD redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies. For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south.” Psalms 107:1-3

Partnering with you in faithful service,

David

SEPTEMBER 21, 2020 @ 5:00 P.M. CAMPUS UPDATE

Earlier today, the Executive Leadership Team met to discuss what has quickly become a second COVID-19 outbreak on campus. Please be assured that college leadership continues to pledge our transparency with the Campus Community and share these situations as they arise. While this latest increase in students testing positive for the COVID-19 virus is a setback, I am hopeful this pause in seated instruction will assist in our efforts to ensure other students, faculty, and staff remain safe. I know that everyone desires the very best for our campus community, and I am certain we will come together to overcome this latest outbreak so that we can safely and successfully complete the fall semester.

Per my Saturday communication with you, following the Labor Day holiday and an unapproved off-campus gathering, rapid testing of students began on September 14. This led to 24 students placed in isolation or quarantine. Through further contact tracing by College staff members and local health officials, college leadership now confirms 21 positive cases with an additional 44 students in observation. These cases have come from a variety of sources within the campus community, including community spread outside of the identified social gathering sources. Affected students are in the care of the College’s student development team. Students who test positive for COVID-19 are immediately placed in quarantine while those who may have been exposed are placed in isolation until they test negative for the virus.

All classes have been transitioned to remote instruction the remainder of the week, Tuesday, September 22 through Friday, September 25. During this time, only essential personnel determined by executive leadership team members will report to work. All other employees will work remotely from home for the remainder of the week. All athletic competitions and practices will be postponed through Sunday, September 27. The Herb Sims Center will also be closed during this time. This remote instruction period will allow for deep cleaning of facilities around campus and for additional testing to be completed.

A reevaluation will be held on Sunday, September 27, by College leadership to return to seated instruction, on-campus work, practices, and competition. The 29th Annual Duremdes Christian Emphasis Week at Bluefield College, scheduled for this week, September 23-25, has been rescheduled for September 30 – October 2 with artist and author Nigel Darius. All three-morning sessions will be live-streamed for public viewing, Wednesday through Friday, at 10:00 a.m. You can view the three-day event on YouTube

SEPTEMBER 19, 2020 @ 3:16 P.M. CAMPUS UPDATE

I am grateful for the efforts of many who are practicing good hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing in order to maintain a safe and healthy living and learning environment. While we had been making progress toward having everyone out of quarantine and isolation, we took a step backward this week. Regrettably, we had a number of students attend an off-campus social gathering last weekend that has resulted in several contracting the virus and numerous others being placed into isolation. As of this morning, we have 24 students in quarantine or isolation.

We also have two Admissions staff members in isolation. One of the employees was in close proximity with one of the infected students. The other employee had been in close proximity with the potentially infected co-worker. Out of precaution, the Admissions offices were closed yesterday afternoon, and the entire suite was cleaned. The Admissions offices will remained closed on Monday, while staff work remotely.

Students, please adhere to the College’s COVID-19 protocols and heed our requests that you not engage in gatherings where there is an absence of social distancing and mask wearing (a.k.a. parties). The stakes are high. While you might not suffer serious health consequences, someone else might. We have had two adults in our community who have recently died from the COVID-19 virus. This is serious.

Additionally, you are not helping yourself, or other students who have been around you, when you are forced into quarantine or isolation. Your absence from class could negatively impact your academic progress. For many, the best learning occurs through active, engaged learning in the classroom. You also will lessen your quality of life as you are unable to be outside and enjoy the fresh, cool air of fall, as well as spending time hanging out with your friends.

Finally, be on notice. For those who have organized and participated in, or for those considering, off-campus social gatherings, you will face disciplinary consequences; and for those of you who are student athletes, you will also be suspended from competition, now or whenever your season begins.

I regret having to take such measures, but our past attempts of offering guidance and advice are not being heeded by all. It’s time now, Rams, that we not live for just ourselves but that we take into consideration what it means to live and learn in community with others. This is what it means to be a servant leader—putting the interests of others ahead of your own. This is what we mean in our Core Values, particularly value three: We are a diverse community characterized by integrity, mutual respect, support, and encouragement. Let’s live with integrity. Let’s show mutual respect to others in the campus community. Let’s show what it means to be a Ram!

SEPTEMBER 11, 2020 @ 5:00 P.M. CAMPUS TRAVEL STATEMENT FROM DR. OLIVE

As we conclude the fourth week of the semester, along with being several days beyond the Labor Day weekend, I am pleased with where we are related to where we were as classes began in August. We have had no new cases of the COVID-19 virus, and most everyone is out of quarantine or isolation. The handful who remain should be out of isolation no later than tomorrow.

I am proud of the way our campus community has come together to ensure, as much as humanly possible, a safe living, learning, and work environment. We did a tremendous job in immediately identifying and confronting the virus outbreak a few weeks ago by quickly testing hundreds of students in a short period of time and moving affected students into quarantine and isolation. We have also done well since then by using good judgment and practicing good hygiene, masking wearing, and social distancing to prevent others in our community from contracting the virus. Well done, all!

The Executive Leadership Team met this week to discuss the College’s protocols for travel away from campus. A number of our students will be traveling in the days ahead for athletic competition and student functions. Additionally, as meetings and conferences begin to be rescheduled travel by faculty and staff may be required. College leadership felt it was important to provide each of you with guidance on planning safe travel. Please note that this policy is subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic changes at a global or local level. College leadership team members continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis, as we have since the beginning of the pandemic.

To help you in planning travel and have a clearer understanding, here are definitions in determining what is deemed essential travel and non-essential travel by college leadership.

Essential travel is defined as school-related travel approved by supervisors and college leadership team members. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Athletic competition
  • Approved performances by student groups
  • Conferences, meetings, and presentations
  • Traveling 50 miles away from campus for family emergencies
  • Other events as approved

Non-essential travel is defined as non-school related travel. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Off-campus social events not held by Bluefield College
  • Visitation to other college campuses outside of approved meetings and athletic competition
  • Travel 50 miles outside of the local area

We are doing all that is possible to encourage safe travel during trips away from campus to protect the safety and well-being of students, faculty, and staff. We are implementing new guidelines for those who complete approved, essential travel.

Faculty, staff, and students will not be required to isolate/quarantine immediately upon return, provided essential travel guidelines have been strictly followed. Due to the number of individuals traveling during this time period, ongoing self-isolation of a large number of our campus community will have a massive impact on current operations and staffing capacities of the College. However, self-isolation and testing continue to be encouraged as an extra precaution and best practice for the campus community.

Essential travel guidelines are: Masks are required to be worn at all times, outside of travel in a vehicle or while in a hotel room; Meals are catered/delivered for large groups, such as athletic teams, when possible; if not, individuals are to take strict precautions when dining and do their best to eat outdoors and away from others; Individual/groups are not permitted additional stops and activities outside the original purpose of the trip, and could result in immediate isolation/quarantine upon arrival of individual/groups if additional stops or activities outside the original purpose of the trip occur; Should the individual/group come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person(s), immediate isolation/quarantine upon arrival to campus will be required.

Again, please note that this policy is subject to change depending on changes with the pandemic. So continue to follow campus updates on our COVID-19 webpage (www.bluefield.edu/covid-19).

I have heard from a number of students, as well as continue to personally believe, that we all desire an on-campus experience this year, even with the modifications we have put in place. I also believe that our student-athletes desire to engage in playing their sport this year. So together, we need to continue doing our best as a campus community.

Together, we have built somewhat of a bubble here on campus. All students have been tested at least once. Our student-athletes are being monitored daily. This bubble, however, is not perfect, nor is it impervious. We have learned the consequences of departing from the immediate community and interacting with others in unsafe social gatherings. I ask that you continue to be mindful and heed protocols in order to continue making the most of this in-person experience this year.

Again, as a final reminder for when you do leave campus, even in our immediate area, always be mindful to be safe and responsible. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and follow social distancing protocols. If you choose to travel against the College’s recommendation, be smart about your decisions and follow College and CDC protocols while outside of our bubble. When you return to campus, while not required, please consider self-isolating for a few days to see if you develop any symptoms that would require you to take a rapid test. Further, should you be caught engaging in behavior that puts the campus community at risk, disciplinary actions may be taken against you, up to a suspension depending on the severity of the action.

SEPTEMBER 3, 2020 @ 3:32 P.M. CAMPUS UPDATE / REMINDER TO STAY LOCAL

We are nearing the end of the quarantine period for many in our campus community. Thank you to all who have followed the rules and protocols during this experience. We understand that this has not been an easy process, but it was necessary. Thanks also go to the many members of our faculty and staff who went beyond their every day responsibilities to care for students during this time!

Reviewing our past week, there have been only two positive cases. These two cases were related but outside of the football team. We have also moved from 78 students in quarantine/isolation to just 20.

I have heard from a number of students, as well as continue to personally believe, that we all desire an on-campus experience this year, even with the modifications we have put in place. I also believe that our student-athletes desire to engage in playing their sport this year. So together, we need to continue doing our best by not traveling outside the immediate area—unless it is an emergency—during this holiday weekend and throughout the remainder of the semester.

Together, we have built somewhat of a bubble here on campus. All students have been tested at least once. Our student-athletes are being monitored daily. This bubble, however, is not perfect, nor is it impervious. We have learned from the actions of a few earlier in the semester the consequences of departing from the immediate community and interacting with others in unsafe social gatherings, and some of our students are still trying to recover from that experience.

Many other universities, in Virginia and across the nation, are grappling with this virus on a larger scale on their own campuses. Most recently, James Madison University moved to online learning after having over 600 cases develop on campus. By being smart, following protocols, and staying close to campus, I believe we can maintain our bubble.

There are great things to do here in the area and enjoy this community that surrounds you. Consider the following options available to you this weekend:

Enjoy a BBQ with us! Take part in Residence Life’s Labor Day Cookout this Saturday, September 5 from 2:00-6:00 p.m. at Bluefield City Park.

Enjoy the great outdoors! The weather will be beautiful this holiday weekend. Bluefield College is surrounded by incredible natural beauty, and the area is worth exploring! Mountain Trail Outfitters (located on campus) has the gear you need to explore and have fun outside; just call Anne Pelchar’s office at 276.326.4256 to secure gear during the week or Campus Security on the weekend at 304.887.1795. Just remember you will have to fill out a waiver to use College equipment.

SALT will hold a bonfire during the extended weekend (weather permitting) with hot dogs and s’mores with yard games set out all day Monday! Stay tuned to the Bluefield College app and Student Development social media for details.

Did you know there are ten waterfalls around us you can hike to? Did you know there is a drive-in movie theater nearby? Did you know there is a former coal mine that you can walk through? Did you know there are geocaches all around the area? Check out our local tourism agencies’ websites below to find something outdoors, fun, and safe to do in our local area:

Enjoy a good book this weekend. I know you have much to read in each of your courses this semester. However, don’t forget to take time out for a fun read. I’ve been reading this summer the book, Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, and I next want to read The President is Missing, by James Patterson and Bill Clinton.

Enjoy the campus. This campus is your home. Spend time getting to know it. Hang out on the quad all day, catch up on that show you have been wanting to watch (Kathryn and I have been watching the Netflix western Hell on Wheels), or start a pick-up game of any sport with other students. Also, there are trails going across the back hillside of campus that connect to the trail system in City Park.

Whatever you do, always be mindful to be safe and responsible. Wear your mask, wash your hands, and follow social distancing protocols. If you choose to travel against the College’s recommendation, be smart about your decisions and follow CDC protocols while outside of our bubble. When you return to campus, consider self-isolating for a few days to see if you develop any symptoms that would require you to take a rapid test. Further, should you be caught engaging in behavior that puts the campus community at risk, disciplinary actions may be taken against you, up to a suspension depending on the severity of the action.

As you enjoy your Labor Day weekend, please remember why we celebrate and give thanks to those who labor on our behalf. Labor Day is a day set aside each year to pay tribute to working men and women and has been celebrated as a national holiday since 1894. It is a good reminder of the value of work and an appreciation of others who make, grow and deliver the things we need for our sustenance, as well as those things that bring enjoyment to our lives.

Joining with you in faithful service,

David

AUGUST 29, 2020 @ 10:44 A.M. COVID-19 UPDATE

As we close out the second week of the fall semester for our traditional and online programs, I wanted to update you on the number of positive cases to date and the number of students in quarantine and isolation. As a reminder, students who test positive are placed in quarantine for a period of 10 days. Before a student can be released from quarantine, the student must have a negative test. Thus, a quarantine period could go beyond 10 days should the student continue to test positive. For students who had a negative test result but were in close contact with someone who tested positive (i.e., roommate, suitemate, teammate, etc.), they are placed into isolation for a period of up to 14 days.

Two weekends ago when new students moved in we had one student test positive upon arrival to campus. As the first week of classes began, we had 24 cases—22 of those were discovered during extensive testing on the first day of classes. This past week there were only three new cases. These three were individuals who were already in isolation and began experiencing symptoms and tested positive. Altogether, we have had 28 cases. As of today, there are 73 students in quarantine or isolation, many of whom are here on campus while others are at home or their off-campus residences.

I am so grateful to our athletic training staff, under the direction of Head Trainer Erika Bell, for their valiant efforts in quickly identifying last week’s outbreak and testing hundreds of students in a short period of time. They, in conjunction with the Student Development team, began quarantining and isolating students so that the virus did not spread to others in our campus community. Other heroes, like our Res Life Directors, Residence Advisors, College Leadership Team members, and many others, have stepped in to help care for those who are quarantined and isolated. Even our dining experience provider, Aladdin, graciously provided our quarantined and isolated students the ability to order from the daily menu so that they could select their own preferred foods.

We may have others who will test positive this semester or later in the academic year. However, we know what to do. But more importantly, we know what we can do!

It has been a team effort to get to where we are today, and I’m proud of this campus community’s spirit! It’s one grounded in faith and the eternal truths of God our creator; in the sacrificial and unconditional love as demonstrated through Christ; and in giving of ourselves as servant leaders.

AUGUST 23, 2020 @ 7:02 P.M. RETURN TO IN-CLASS INSTRUCTION W/OPTION FOR REMOTE LEARNING

Dear BC Community –

As we had hoped, the number of positive COVID-19 tests has plateaued from Wednesday’s discovery of the outbreak. Thanks to the swift and thorough work of our Athletic Training staff, those infected and those within their immediate circles have been tested. With both the College’s internal contact tracing and testing, coupled with the external work performed by the Virginia Department of Health, the College Leadership Team has decided to resume in-class instruction tomorrow, Monday, August 24.

A total of 291 tests have been administered since Wednesday. There were 20 positive cases on Wednesday; one on Thursday; and one on Friday. There have been no reports of new cases of current traditional students yesterday or today. We did, however, have one case today from a late arriving student, who was immediately placed into quarantine.

Local health officials have affirmed the College’s processes for immediately identifying the outbreak and quarantining those testing positive and isolating those who were in close contact with someone testing positive. At this time, there are 25 who are quarantined and 54 who are isolated. Sixty-four students are quarantined or isolated on campus, and the remaining 15 are at their homes or residences. All have been instructed to remain in their locations of quarantine or isolation and on the importance for doing so.

Because the College is operating in a dual modality this fall, traditional students have the option of in-class instruction or remote learning via livestream. For traditional students who would rather remain in their residence rooms or at their homes than attend class in person, you have the ability to do so. Of course, for students who are in quarantine or isolation, your only option during this time period of separation is remote learning.

Students who are in quarantine and isolation are receiving daily communications and delivery of meals. They have been, and continue to be, reminded of the academic, wellness and pastoral counseling, and residence resources available to them. A student who tests positive, is under a 10-day quarantine, and those who are isolated have a 14-day period [per CDC guidelines].

The leadership team and I are keenly aware of the physical, psychological and emotional effects this pandemic is causing on everyone in our campus community. We are stepping up our efforts to assist each individual who is needing help or accommodation. I am grateful for everyone’s patience and grace as we seek to serve and meet each individual’s needs.

As trying as this past week might have been and the uncertainties that await us in the coming weeks, we can and will get through this! I close with these eloquent and inspiring words shared at yesterday’s commencement by Class of 2020 graduate Samuel Kimzey:

“Now, perhaps more than any time recently, we need mature adults who understand what their education has prepared them for – who know how to live with wisdom and courage. I propose to you: what if this is actually the moment that all our education has prepared us for?

“We cannot forget that history’s great triumphs – whether the American War for Independence, the perseverance of the frontier pioneers, or the sacrifices and victory of the Greatest Generation – were accomplished in small moments and seemingly little actions: daily habits and consistent right choices over time. With such historical perspective, our current crisis isn’t unique; it’s merely the crucible of our time in which our character will be tested and formed. How we conduct ourselves right now has tremendous potential to influence not only who we become, but how our communities and nation will respond. Will we demonstrate the kind of maturity, faithful stewardship, and servant leadership Bluefield College has sought to instill in us?

“It’s not as if all that our education has prepared us for will be relevant once this threat of pandemic is over and life becomes predictable again. This – right here and now – is what our education has prepared us for. Education is the fundamental human pursuit of wisdom and meaning amid a world of beauty and potential, yet that is simultaneously characterized by suffering, death, and disorder. Our education prepares us to be mature men and women amid difficult times. I am thankful to have studied at an institution such as Bluefield College, which recognizes wisely that education is formation, not only of the mind and intellect, but also of character and of values – those things of lifelong significance. With such perspective, we see that this current situation is not an intermission in our life’s trajectory; rather, it is our call to action – the call be defined by wisdom and courage.”

Joining with you in faithful service,

David

AUGUST 19, 2020 @ 10:20 P.M. COVID-19 OUTBREAK / TEMPORARY PAUSE WITH IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION

Dear Campus Community –

Congratulations on completing your first day of classes! We appreciate your dedication to completing this academic year. You may have already heard we have new positive cases on campus. Please allow me to provide you the full account of what has transpired today.

This morning a student-athlete requested a test after feeling they had a COVID-19 symptom, which produced a positive result. This promoted further testing of additional members of our football team, and later led to full testing of the team. At this moment we have 19 new active cases on our campus. All students are in quarantine rooms and are being cared for by our student development team.

Upon contract tracing by members of the College staff it appears the source of community spread was at a social gathering in the Radford, Virginia community this weekend. I believe a vast majority of us desire an in-person experience this academic year. This is especially true as we see other colleges and universities reverting to remote learning for the duration of the semester.

Let me be very frank with you about the seriousness of our collective actions during this pandemic. We can only do this if we all are vigilant in practicing appropriate protocols and following the rules. If we act otherwise, it could force Bluefield College to move to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester. This could include the suspension of all sports. We must all be responsible in our actions every day.

I want to be clear about our protocols so there is no question what is being asked of each of us:

  • Masks should be worn at all times when social distancing of six feet cannot be accomplished. Proper mask wearing is just as important. Masks should fully cover the mouth and nose of the wearer. Masks are not effective if they are pulled down or are exposing the mouth or nose.
  • Travel and gathering in large groups off-campus is not approved or welcomed this year. While we appreciate that college is a time to meet new people through great social opportunities, the present time in which we find ourselves is unique. Being with others outside of our campus can contribute to the spreading of this virus. The College provides great on-campus programming for your enjoyment, and we hope you will take the time to build quality relationships here on campus. This is not a normal year, so your participation will go a long way in allowing Bluefield College to operate as it has going into the start of this academic year.
  • We encourage our residential and commuter students to limit their exposure when going out into the community. Should you have to go out, please take appropriate actions by wearing masks and following social distance protocols. Please go out only when necessary for essential items, like food and supplies.
  • We will be putting in place a midnight curfew for campus. This does not prevent students from being out and around campus at all hours of the night. However, it does mean that we will ask students to not leave campus after midnight until 8:00 a.m. each day. This will not be an easy protocol to fulfill. Therefore, it is incumbent on you to follow this request with honor and integrity.

Bluefield College will take a temporary pause with in-person instruction and gatherings Thursday and Friday. We will conduct classes over remote instruction for those two days. Faculty members, please reference the email from Dr. Flowers earlier this evening, and do not hesitate to reach out to his office for further assistance in this transition.

During this time College staff will complete a deep cleaning of all campus areas with our electrostatic sprayers, which are EPA certified to kill the virus. This time will also allow campus staff and Virginia Department of Health staff to finish contact tracing protocols; it will allow members of the campus community to take stock of their own health and determine if they have any COVID-19 symptoms; and it will allow for rapid testing if needed.

Students, you should not be alarmed if you are contacted by the Virginia Department of Health. These representatives are helping to contact trace and determine any potential spread of the virus. We ask that you answer their calls promptly and answer all questions truthfully. Students will not be penalized for being truthful in their answers. This is important for you to know. Honesty and transparency is always best. In addition, we would ask that you utilize the department’s free COVIDWISE app on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. This will assist their tracing efforts.

Please also know that we will hold our spring commencement ceremony on Saturday morning. This event is closed to the student body in order to reduce exposure. Guests will be on campus, outdoors, for a short amount of time. Campus will reopen to the student body for movement around campus at noon for lunch. Highlands Fellowship will hold service on Sunday as well. They are continuing to follow their own protocols for service. We plan to resume in-class instruction on Monday morning, unless circumstances prevent that from occurring. Further communication will be sent on Sunday.

Together, we can make this a productive academic year with in-class instruction. Everyone needs to do his or her part to make our campus a safe and healthy environment…for everyone! Let’s not give up hope, and let’s not retreat in fear.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

AUGUST 19, 2020 @ 8:52 P.M. BLUEFIELD'S RESPONSE TO NEW COVID CASES

Nineteen students at Bluefield College tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier today a member of the Bluefield College football team tested positive after requesting a test. Following contact tracing protocols additional members of the football team were tested. The decision was made to test the entire team once additional students were identified. This effort produced an additional 18 students with positive cases. The football program has suspended all activities for the next seven days.

Through contact tracing by College staff members it appears the source of community spread was from a social gathering in the Radford, Virginia community over the weekend. Affected students are in the care of the College’s student development team. They have been placed in pre-identified quarantine rooms until they test negative for the virus.

Bluefield College leadership made the decision to move all classes to remote instruction on Thursday and Friday with a plan to return to in-person instruction on Monday morning. Bluefield College has planned to offer courses in-person and online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are able to attend classes either way, and are able to quickly pivot solely to remote instruction. This remote instruction period will also allow for campus staff to deep clean facilities around campus.

“Bluefield College leadership continues to monitor the situation on a day-to-day basis,” said President David Olive. “We will provide updates to our campus community to be transparent and responsible in communicating how we move forward as a campus.”

For more information, please contact Joshua Cline, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, at 304.960.9195 or jcline@bluefield.edu.

AUGUST 17, 2020 @ 3:52 P.M. NOTICE OF 2ND STUDENT WITH COVID

Dear Campus Community –

This afternoon Bluefield College received another positive case of COVID-19. It is important to note that this case is completely separate from the case announced over the weekend.

A student, already on campus, requested a test today from the Department of Athletic Training, which has been administering the tests as students arrive to campus. This student had previously tested negative during the student’s move-in process at the beginning of this month and has been on-campus for some time now.

We continue to follow our protocols, and we believe these best practices are keeping COVID-19 cases contained as they arise. The student has been quarantined and is being cared for by our student development team. We temporarily closed parts of campus where the student had been present and sanitized those areas using our EPA-certified sanitizers. We have notified our Virginia Department of Health officials and are closely working with them to follow their protocols.

As with most cases of COVID-19, we cannot always pinpoint the exact location or individual from where or whom the student acquired the virus. What we do know is that the student has been in the greater Bluefields since arriving to campus and in limited contact with individuals on campus. Whether the greater community could be a possible source of acquiring the virus or from someone close to the student, it continues to reinforce that we must follow the College protocols and guidelines from our healthcare officials.

We are fortunate that our cases continue to remain extremely low, cases are mild cases, and our response to situations as they arrive are rapid. This does not minimize the experience of what anyone is going through with this virus. Our prayers continue to be with those and their families that are combating this virus, especially in the worst-case scenarios. It is also easy for fear to creep in and immediately begin to look for drastic changes for the course of the semester. However, until we receive guidance from government officials, health officials, education officials, or other institutions and bodies of interest to the College’s operations, we will remain open on-campus and on-line to serve our students’ needs in the modality of their choice.

As College leaders, we continue to pledge to be transparent with our campus community and share these situations as they arise. Decisions on responses and recommendations for adjustments to the semester continue to be made by the College’s COVID-19 Taskforce in concert with College leadership. We will continue to monitor the virus and situations daily to make appropriate decisions.

While we all had hoped that we could go through this academic year without any positive cases within our campus community, we now know that isn’t reality. Winston Churchill once said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” I encourage everyone to stay positive and focused on the semester ahead of us, and please do practice good hygiene, mask wearing, and social distancing…for your health and that of our campus community.

AUGUST 15, 2020 @ 5:56 P.M. FIRST POSITIVE TEST FOR COVID

Good afternoon, Campus Community –

As promised in our communications since the beginning of this pandemic, we will keep our campus community informed of situations as they arise. In recent weeks we have slowly welcomed back students to residential life on campus. We have stuck to our approved protocols in order to be as safe as possible during this season of uncertainty. You will recall these protocols were put to the test and were found to be successful with the positive testing of three employees before students arrived on campus this summer.

Today, a student seeking to move onto campus tested positive during the check-in process. Shott Hall was then closed and disinfected by our facilities team utilizing our new electrostatic cleaners. These cleaners are EPA-certified to kill the virus. The student did not move onto campus following the test. Rather, the student chose to return home to quarantine with family until the student is no longer contagious and tests negative for COVID-19. Staff members from Student Development and Academic Affairs will be working with the student to ensure the student misses nothing during the first weeks of class and transitions to campus seamlessly at the appropriate time.

Three staff members, all appropriately wearing masks and following protocols, were in brief contact with the individual before the student’s positive test. These staff members were sent home and will be tested next week per our protocols before returning to work on campus. We have notified our partners at the Virginia Department of Health and will continue to follow their guidance as we have to date in all matters pertaining to this pandemic.

Out of the more than 400 students who have been tested to date, this was our first positive test for a student. Considering the multitude of locations from which our students have come, this is truly a blessing. We will hope and pray that this will be our only one, and I ask you also pray for this student and family as they recover from the virus.

It is natural to feel uneasy and unsure of the days ahead of us, especially as we see cases rising around us in the region and country. However, I encourage us all to continue practicing safe habits and following guidelines concerning wearing masks, socially distancing from one another as much as possible, and following our other protocols developed to enable our campus to resume activities this fall as safely as possible.

Please remember that our response team is monitoring the virus, its progression, and activity on campus each day. We will respond rapidly and appropriately to situations as they arise. We pledge to continue being open and transparent with our campus community as well. With the situation contained, we will proceed with our opening week activities as scheduled at this time.

JUNE 22, 2020 @ 11:24 A.M. PLANS FOR RESUMING IN-CLASS INSTRUCTION FOR TRADITIONAL STUDENTS & MABS STUDENTS

Hello, BC Community –

As announced several weeks ago, Bluefield College intends to resume in-class instruction for traditional students at the main campus and in-lab learning for MABS students at the Blacksburg instructional site on the VCOM campus this fall semester. The proposed protocols can be found at https://www.bluefield.edu/covid-19-information/.

Pursuant to Governor Northam’s directive, the plan has been submitted to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for approval. Once approved, we will indicate such on the website.

We are excited to resume in-class instruction again and looking forward to having students on campus and at our Blacksburg instructional site as early as next month. We are praying for your health and safety this summer, as well as during your travels to campus.

Should you have questions about any of the protocols, please contact me or one of the individuals below.

Academics – Dr. Marshall Flowers, Vice President for Academics, mflowers@bluefield.edu / 276-326-4355

Joining you in faithful service,

David

Athletics – Your coach or Tonia Walker, Athletics Director, twalker@bluefield.edu / 276-326-4316

Employees – Your ELT member or Judy Pedneau, Director of Human Resources, jpedneau@bluefield.edu / 276-326-4461

Residence Life – Jess Smith, Director of Residence Life, jsmith@bluefield.edu / 276-326-4473

Students (Traditional) – Dr. Josh Arnold, Assoc. Vice President for Student Development, jarnold@bluefield.edu / 276-326-4206

Students (MABS) – Dr. Brian Hill, Director for the Masters of Arts in Biomedical Sciences, bhill@bluefield.edu / 540-231-5107

Visitors/External Constituents – Josh Cline, Vice President for Advancement, jcline@bluefield.edu / 276-326-4208

Joining you in faithful service,

 

David

MAY 6, 2020 @ 9:00 A.M A CAMPUS UPDATE FROM DR. OLIVE

Greetings, Faculty and Staff –

I want to thank each of you for continuing to faithfully serve our students during these unprecedented times. Typically, we would be getting together this week to celebrate the conclusion of another academic year and recognize anniversary milestones of our employees, as well as the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award recipients. We are planning to host this event in conjunction with the Employee Workshop in August.

In my prior communication on March 30, which is logged at www.bluefield.edu/covid-19, I shared the College would follow social distancing guidelines of the federal government until the April 30 date. As you have most likely seen from news outlets, parts of the country are beginning to open back up. Our neighboring states of West Virginia and Tennessee have already began this process.

As the federal government has indicated, states will now be responsible for establishing reopening guidelines. We will defer to the Commonwealth’s guidelines for reopening campus. While Governor Northam has placed a date of June 10 for Virginia to begin reopening, he indicated at a press conference on Monday that steps toward reopening businesses may begin as early as May 15. Please continue to operate as you have in recent weeks until we receive further word from the Governor. Should the original June 10 date change, we will communicate with you those changes as they take place.

Also, this week ELT members will begin having conversations with respective divisional teams about plans for when we return to campus, as well as preparations for the fall semester. While plan A is to begin the fall with on-campus class instruction, new protocols on how we go about doing that are being considered. These plans have not been finalized, or established yet in some circumstances. Knowing there is a wide range of speculation across the higher education landscape, we are developing plans that we believe will best work for Bluefield College and our students. Please have patience as our teams develop these plans. You will hear directly from college leadership in an official communication what these plans are. Further, should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your ELT/CLT member or me. We will do our best to answer your questions.

CCCU President Shirley Hoogstra recently shared a short video by Tim Keller who provides a reminder for those in ministry [including those of us in the ministry of education and spiritual formation] to ensure we care for ourselves. He uses the analogy of what each of us hears every time we board an airplane: “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping the person next to you.” Keller shares four truths in helping us ensure we have our “oxygen masks on” as we traverse the landscape of this pandemic as we go about helping others [our students, our families, one another], which are: extraordinary prayer; resilience without stoicism; radical refocusing; and Gospel resolve. To see and hear Keller’s brief words of encouragement for self-care, click here.

Joining with you in faithful service,

David

APRIL 22, 2020 @ 9:54 P.M. COVID-19 GRADING POLICY OPTION

The College Faculty have approved an optional grading policy for undergraduate students that will allow you to elect a Credit/No Credit option with the grade of “Pass” or “Withdraw” assigned as the final course grade. As is our normal practice, your faculty member will assign the final course grade as a letter grade of “A to F.” Once the grade is posted on your transcript, by May 15th, you will be able to determine if the final letter grade or the optional grade of “Pass” or “Withdraw” would best represent your effort in the course given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to elect the Credit/No Credit option of “Pass” or “Withdraw,” you will need to complete the “2020 Spring Semester Grading Petition” that will be accessible on MyBC (soon to be posted by the Registrar’s Office) by May 30th. The process does require you to secure the approval of your Academic Advisor and the Faculty Athletic Rep, Dr. Shawn White, if you are a student athlete.

The two attached BC COVID-19 Grading Policy documents will provide you with helpful information about the Credit/No Credit grading option. If you have additional questions, you may submit them to your academic advisor or directly to me for clarification.

APRIL 22, 2020 @ 11:36 A.M A CAMPUS UPDATE FROM DR. OLIVE

We are just a week away from classes coming to an end (excluding the Master of Arts in Biomedical Sciences program). I am grateful for everyone’s patience and perseverance as we have navigated the past month with the move to remote instruction. I can assure you that you have remained in our thoughts and prayers, and it is my hope you have felt supported by your faculty, as well as through Virtual Chapel, Prayer 3.0, RAMPART, BCTogether, Zoom Zumba, and additional creative ways we have attempted to maintain community via Tik Tok and other social media.

Here are updates and other important information you should know:

Work Study students will receive a payout for unworked hours (based on weekly averages of hours previously worked). Checks will be sent at the end of this month.

All traditional students* will receive emergency relief funding provided to the College through funds from the federal stimulus CARES Act. The funds are to “directly benefit students” to cover expenses related to “the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus, including eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child care.” Once received, these funds will be distributed next month and will be proportionally allocated based on the level of Pell or non-Pell participation. *Unfortunately, international students are not eligible to receive emergency relief funding per stipulations in the CARES Act.

The College’s position on refunds for room and board remain​s unchanged. Residential facilities and food services have many fixed costs, primarily personnel. We were successful in negotiating a lower rate with our food provider. These savings, along with others that can be identified, will be returned through a refund/credit. This will be done one month following the conclusion of the spring semester.

For students who still have textbooks, you will soon be receiving a pre-paid mailing label for your textbook return. Your textbooks must be returned by May 15. You will be charged otherwise.

Graduates who would have been recognized at Commencement on May 9 will have the opportunity to celebrate “Spring Commencement” on Saturday, August 22. ​Academic regalia will be coming to you in the mail soon with a celebration package from our Offices of Alumni Relations and Academic Affairs. Please take photos for us, share them with the hashtag #BCRams2020, and let us celebrate with you on May 9 as we share a “Graduate Celebration” video on our social media platforms.

Graduates of the MABS Program will have a virtual Commencement on May 17.

Be on the lookout for some neat student engagement opportunities coming up next month!

For returning traditional students, we are praying ​we all will​be able to return to campus​together in August for the start of the 2020-21 academic year. ​There are a number of variables, however, that could prevent that from occurring. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated over the course of the summer. If the government continues or reinstitutes a shelter-in-place order at that time, we will continue with a more robust online program so that you can continue your education at Bluefield College.

While change typically brings discomfort, I encourage you to embrace the moment in which we find ourselves and make the most of it. Remain focused on your course work and preparation for exams, but also remain focused on your own health and wellbeing, as well as those of others around you.

“May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela

APRIL 2, 2020 @ 3:58 P.M. TRAVEL LETTER FOR RETRIEVING ITEMS FROM RESIDENCE HALL

Several students have reached out to our office requesting a document that permits them to travel to campus to retrieve personal items. Most state’s shelter-in-place orders already permit such travel under the following provisions:

  • Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members.
  • A participant of an educational institution, traveling for the purpose of facilitating distance learning.

To ensure that you do not encounter any more challenges than necessary, I have drafted and attached a letter documenting that you are a student at Bluefield College, provided that you can furnish a valid Bluefield College student ID card and your respective state identification card (such as a driver’s license). The letter provides details regarding the College’s decision to move to remote learning and why your items must be retrieved from campus. While you are unlikely to run into any issues if showing good manners and judgment while traveling, please bear in mind that if confronted by a law enforcement agency, the officer (or law enforcement agent) has the discretion to instruct you to return home and you should heed her or his warning. If this should occur, please contact the Office of Residence Life to make arrangements to retrieve your items at a later date. I can also be reached directly for emergencies at 276-326-4206 (my office number, which will forward directly to my mobile).

We appreciate your understanding and resilience during this difficult time. Our staff thinks of you often and prays for you each day.

Shelter in Place Travel Letter

APRIL 1, 2020 @ 4:04 P.M FOLLOW UP FROM YESTERDAY'S STUDENT FORUM

Good afternoon, Campus Community –

For those students who participated in our town hall forum yesterday, I want to thank you for your time, questions, and the high level of professionalism you displayed. I hope that as you engage civilly, in other facets of life, you can think back to these forums this year. Our country needs individuals who can engage in civil discourse at every level of government and in community life more than ever right now.

We appreciate your perspective. We aim to be transparent with you on how we make key decisions at the College. This does not happen at many colleges and universities. We do this because of our core values at Bluefield College. Value Three states: “We are a diverse community characterized by integrity, mutual respect, support, and encouragement.”

Further, as was stated at the closing of the forum, our College leadership team spends many hours debating scenarios, outcomes, creating models, and laying out possible choices in making all decisions related to the life of Bluefield College. Decisions are not rashly made, and they are always made with you in mind. In today’s communication, I would like to first update you on our federal work study payout process. I would then like to recap the major talking points from our town hall forum.

Yesterday afternoon you received a message stating that all federal workstudy work was to cease at the close-of-business March 31, 2020. While the message was sudden, and frankly a bit terse, it was not in any way to punish our workstudy students. Through a relaxation of standards by the Department of Education, the College is now able to structure a payout of federal workstudy funds. Within that package is the opportunity to pay out our workstudy students. A stop at the end of the pay period was needed to assess the remaining funds available to be paid out. We will soon institute our payout strategy for those federal workstudies.

It is important to remember that colleges and universities have two categories of workstudies: federal and institutional. This is based solely on how payment is made to the student: with a combination of federal and institutional funds or only institutional funds. This payout to federal workstudy students will conclude our workstudy program for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. This process will reset, as it does each year, for the fall semester.

However, some institutional workstudies may have the option to continue working based on two conditions: 1) the department or office they are working for has institutional funds available to pay students; and 2) the workstudy desires to continue working. Institutional workstudy students should confer with their supervisor to determine their category and qualification for future work this fiscal year.

In yesterday’s town hall forum there were questions from a few students concerning reimbursements of tuition. Students will not receive a refund or a credit on tuition. Remember, Bluefield College has not closed or ceased our operations. Academic services have continued, staff continue to be employed to meet your needs, and your education as a student has continued, albeit in a different modality, due to the necessity of an unprecedented health crisis.

Regarding reimbursements related to room and board, what College leadership has stated is, “we are not considering reimbursements at this time.” A better phrasing may have been that, “we are not issuing reimbursements at this time.” Within a month of the conclusion of the Spring semester, we will have a better idea of any cost savings that can be extended to residential students. For room charges, we are looking specifically at our fixed costs and other variables. We have continued to operate these facilities for residential students. We have securely stored belongings and personal possessions, and we remind you that leaving was an optional choice as residence halls are still open.

Second, for boarding charges or meal plans, we continue to negotiate with our food provider, Aladdin. The good news is we have nearly completed that negotiation this week. We look forward to extending you a refund/credit for their meal plans in the following days.

Let me share with you how the refund/credit process will work. For underclassmen and those returning next semester, refunds will be applied as a credit to any existing account balance on your student account. Any remainder will be a credit on next year’s balance. For seniors not returning next semester, if your student account is paid in-full you will receive a refund check prior to May 9, 2020.

The faculty have not moved the College to a pass/fail system. This works to your advantage as a student, because in a pass/fail system you do not receive credit for the coursework you complete. While you may pass the course, you may be required to pick up additional hours outside your current academic plan in order to meet the number of credit hours required to graduate. This, for some students, could lead to additional courses to be taken, expanding course loads over subsequent semesters, and creates the possibility of adding a semester to your time at Bluefield College should appropriate planning not be worked out in advance.

Your faculty are here to work with you. As I stated in an earlier communication, one of our best qualities at Bluefield College is our caring faculty and staff who will meet students where they are in their moment of need. This includes a recent decision by the faculty to extend out the course withdrawal deadline to April 29, 2020, to accommodate students who may not be satisfied with their course performance.

The other significant issue we covered in our town hall forum yesterday was related to the Spring commencement ceremony. Seniors, we clearly heard your desires for a late summer/fall ceremony rather than our December commencement exercise to walk across the stage. Our team in Academic Affairs is meeting this week to reconsider current plans. I make no promises that current plans will change, but the team will once again review all options previously considered, of which a late summer/fall ceremony was one of those plans. We will communicate the team’s decision in days ahead.

I wish each of you well as you finish the spring term. I and many others are cheering you on. To borrow from the Apostle Paul, “run with perseverance the race marked out for you.” The race to which Paul was referring was this life journey we’re on. He noted that we all need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the perfecter of our faith. While that is the most important race for anyone of us, you are on a race to finish this semester. So, run with perseverance and stay strong as you near the finish line of this semester.

MARCH 30, 2020 @ 1:14 P.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO RESIDENTIAL STUDENTS

Good afternoon, Campus Community –

As promised, Bluefield College leadership continues to monitor and heed the advice of government and health officials concerning social distancing with the COVID-19 pandemic. With the direction from federal officials to maintain social distancing practices until April 30, we have made the difficult decision to continue with remote instruction for the remainder of the spring semester. We had sincerely hoped to be together for the end of the semester, especially for our senior traditional students. We now will look toward fall semester to be together again.

We understand that this announcement raises many questions. We will hold a virtual town hall forum tomorrow, March 31, from 2:00-3:00 PM for traditional students to ask questions. It is our ongoing goal to provide you with the best and most current information. Here are a few key questions we can answer in advance for you:

  1. How do I get my things from my residence hall room?
    • To encourage social distancing, there will be limited time slots open for each building every two hours. You will receive an email from the Office of Residence Life shortly with a link to the sign-up form. You may bring one to two guests to help you move out who are not presenting or been in contact with anyone presenting flu-like symptoms.
    • When you arrive on campus at your designated check-out time, you may go to your room to remove your belongings and items needing disposed. After all of the belongings and discarded items are removed from your room, you will find QR codes posted in the hallways that will let you virtually sign out of your room. This sign out form will be compared to the RIF form you filled out at the start of the year. Once evaluated by your Resident Director, any damage fines will be applied to your account if needed.
    • Lastly, you will need to return your key. Outside of every residence hall office, there will be envelopes and a box to return your keys. On the envelope, please place your name and room number, and then place your room key in the envelope and drop in the box.
  2. Where do I return textbooks and turn in my mailbox key?
    • Students will return textbooks to the Campus Store. Your mailbox key will be collected there, as well. Should you wish to have mail forwarded, please complete a form while at the Campus Store.
  3. How will my classes finish out and what happens to exams?
    • Students will continue course work online in the days ahead just as you are at this time. Faculty will continue to communicate with you on any changes to the syllabus for your course. The exam schedule is being reviewed at this time. Further instructions will be provided in the days ahead.
  4. Will we have commencement and will I get my diploma?
    • At this time, we are making plans for a virtual commencement to be held on Saturday, May 9, 2020. This will include speakers, music, and celebration. Names will be read online with a photo of each graduate. Instructions on submission of information will come soon. We will be mailing academic regalia to each graduate with a celebration packet from our Alumni Office for you to enjoy the day. **Please be sure all contact information in MyBC is up to date.
    • You will receive an official transcript following the conclusion of the semester. This is the document you will need for employment and applications to graduate school. Diplomas and a commencement program will be sent out as normal following the virtual commencement.
    • We understand this is not the optimum experience for you to celebrate this milestone in your life. Therefore, we would also invite you to join us during our December commencement ceremony to walk across the stage. Should you have any questions about this process, please contact the Office of Academic Affairs at 276.326.4456.
  5. Will I get a refund for my room and board?
    • Related to your room, we are not considering reimbursements at this time. Returning home during the time period of online instruction was an optional choice. Bluefield College continues operation of the residence halls. Many, if not all students, who returned home have left personal possessions in your rooms. These items continue to be safely and securely held for you during this time. There are fixed costs related to residential, housekeeping, and maintenance staff. Should there be savings from operations, College leadership will evaluate the possibility of a refund/credit. This will be based on a number of variables which will be evaluated one month following the conclusion of the spring semester.
    • Boarding charges at Bluefield College have many fixed costs, primarily personnel, but we are negotiating with our food provider for a reduction in our monthly bill. With less food being prepared, then less food is needing purchased. We are hopeful these savings in food purchases can be passed back to you as residential students. This too will be evaluated one month following the conclusion of the spring semester.
  6. Will students currently on campus be allowed to stay?
    • Yes. We recognize for many students who chose to stay here that this is a safer place than your home community. Services will continue for students remaining on campus through the end of the semester. Summer housing will continue to be available to any student, domestic or international, should the student feel returning to home would be returning to a high-risk area. Please note that that a summer stay will require a relocation to a new room. Dining hall services are not available during the summer. Please contact Dr. Joshua Arnold at jarnold@bluefield.edu or 276.326.4206 should you have any questions.

Again, Bluefield College is not closed. We are just completing instruction in an online modality for the remainder of the semester. At this time, staff members who have been working remotely should anticipate returning to work on campus Monday, May 4, 2020. This is a tentative date, as we will continue to monitor the ever-changing situation.

I am appreciative of everyone’s patience and flexibility as we have collectively navigated these unprecedented times. Each of us has experienced some disruption to, and inconvenience in, our lives. To our seniors, however, my heart goes out to you. Things are certainly not working out for the conclusion of your collegiate experiences as you and your families had imagined.

Together, we will persevere. And, we will have some incredible stories and memories of a lifetime! May God continue to work in you and through you as we serve those around us.

MARCH 27, 2020 @ 4:18 P.M. STUDENT-ATHLETE UPDATE

Hello Rams Student-Athletes,

The past weeks have certainly been unprecedented & historic. I want to make sure you and your loved ones know your Bluefield College Family are here for you. There is nothing more important than your safety and well-being. Please take care of yourselves and follow all health and safety guidelines we are receiving from our College, public health officials, and medical experts. We must do all we can to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Along with our daily routines, the global crisis we are facing as a result of COVID-19 has impacted every industry including college athletics. Adjusting to a new normal is not easy; however, it is important to keep things in perspective.

The ending of our spring sports seasons is disheartening, but our priority is to do all we can to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens. I acknowledge the sacrifice our student-athletes and coaches are experiencing for the greater good of our community and world. I was saddened to see your spring sports seasons end abruptly, especially for the seniors, but know we are extremely grateful and proud of you for your grit and dedication displayed.

Since this crisis began, our senior team in Rams athletics and our College leadership team have been communicating with you in real time, sharing what we know and working to answer your questions. We will continue to do so, and ask for you to continue to reach out as much as you need to during this time. Our staff and coaches are moving forward with virtual meetings and are committed to staying in constant communication with one another, and you, to ensure we are still productive while we prepare for the road ahead.

In effort to provide relief, the NAIA will not charge any spring sport student-athlete a season of competition. Any spring sport student-athlete (who was enrolled full-time in 2020) will be awarded two additional semester terms of attendance or the equivalent. While I realize this may not be ideal for all, I am optimistic the rule will allow many to return and have the opportunity to not only have an additional season of competition, but optimally attain your degree.

For now, I challenge you to focus on your classes and utilize the College’s support systems, including members of the counseling team, to assist you with a strong finish. I am expecting you to move the needle up on last semester’s 2.79 departmental term GPA. Remain active! We now begin our pursuits for next year’s seasons. Our coaches will be posting daily virtual workouts to enable you to train and keep your body physically fit. Lastly, stay connected (virtually) with members of your teams, coaches, and college friends. It is in times like these that we must draw near to those we love who can provide a constant support.

Seniors: I am so thankful for and honored to have you as part of our Rams family. I cannot thank you enough for all your hard work, perseverance, dedication, and determination to be successful throughout your time at Bluefield College. You are true champions and you have all the tools needed to be successful in whatever you decide to pursue as your chosen professional path. I look forward to staying in touch with you.

Though the Rammies Athletics Awards Banquet may not take place the way we planned, we will use the date and a social media platform to honor our seniors and recognize our Champions of Character, academics, and community service accomplishments. Details are forthcoming.

We will push through this together, keeping the perspective that is necessary, while focusing on doing all we can to prepare for when we return to campus.

This is a good time to remind ourselves of how sports prepare us for life’s challenges, and how to respond to adversity. All the lessons we learn through sports provide us with the transferrable skills we need to maneuver through situations like the one we are facing now. 
Never have we encountered a period in our lifetime that has called on us to step up and embody these values more than now. Our ability to manage successfully through this global pandemic requires us to be great teammates, friends, neighbors, and citizens. It requires us to work together to solve the challenges and problems confronting us. It always requires us to operate with respect toward others and to do the right thing.

If we do these things individually and collectively, we will ultimately emerge victorious — with whatever life throws our way.

I am thankful for my team, student-athletes, coaches, and staff, and I am proud of how you have pulled together during this time.

This is a fluid situation with many twists and turns. Bluefield College leadership will continue to update you on changes and with new information. As I ponder this situation at hand, I’m reminded of James Lane Allen’s quote, “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” Remember, as student-athletes, you are strong, courageous, and resilient! Remain steadfast and know this too shall pass.

I look forward to seeing you again soon and plan to send another update to you in mid-April. Until then, please stay safe, be well, and take care of yourselves and one another.

MARCH 25, 2020 @ 10:00 A.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO RESIDENTIAL STUDENTS

Dear Residential Students –

I trust this message finds you safe and in good health. I also hope your online/virtual classes are going well. Should you need assistance, please let us know how we can help you.

Several of you have asked questions related to your campus residence that most likely many of you are thinking about. Hopefully, this message will provide the answers you are seeking.

A question has been raised about whether residential students will be refunded a portion of their room and board. Related to your room, we are not considering reimbursements at this time. Returning home during the time period of online instruction was an optional choice. Bluefield College continues operation of the residence halls. Many, if not all students, who returned home have left personal possessions in your rooms. These items continue to be safely and securely held for you during this time. There are fixed costs related residential, housekeeping, and maintenance staff. Should there be savings from operations, College leadership will evaluate the possibility of a refund/credit. This will be based on a number of variables which will be evaluated one month following the conclusion of the spring semester.

Boarding charges at Bluefield College have many fixed costs, primarily personnel, but we are negotiating with our food provider for a reduction in our monthly bill. With less food being prepared, then less food is needing purchased. We are hopeful these savings in food purchases can be passed back to you as residential students. This too will be evaluated one month following the conclusion of the spring semester.

Another question relates to whether students who have chosen to stay on campus can remain on campus, even if classes remain online for the remainder of the semester. I attempted to address that in last evening’s communication to the campus community. The answer is, “Yes.” We recognize for many students who chose to stay here that this is a safer place than your home community.

A related question has arisen about summer housing should it not be safe for students to return to their homes. We will accommodate any student who wishes to remain on campus this summer. There would be new charges associated with the summer term, and students will more than likely be moved to another residence facility. Please be mindful too that there is not a meal plan for the dining hall during the summer.

An additional question has arisen as to how students would collect personal possessions from the residence halls should we not return for in-class instruction this semester. Our residential staff is preparing a plan that would be communicated to you should we not return to in-class instruction. There would be an electronic schedule posted, and you would sign up for a specific time to arrive to campus and collect your belongings. The schedule would be structured in a way to limit the number of individuals that would be in the same area/building/suite at the same time.

Should you have other questions, please let me know. We will continue to communicate to groups in this manner so that everyone has the same information and can stay informed.

Wishing you a blessed day, and please join now in the virtual chapel service on Instagram (follow bc_center_for_worship_arts)!

MARCH 24, 2020 @ 5:40 PM E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Good evening, Campus Community.

I pray each of you are staying well during this time. I encourage you, if you are not already, to video-call, call, and text your loved ones and friends during this time. While we are apart, it is good to stay connected with one another. A large part of what makes staying home away from others difficult is that we are created to be relational beings. There are many wonderful articles online right now highlighting ways to stay connected. Search for those, and I challenge you to embrace at least one or two of those ways. For me, I am conferencing via Zoom each day with colleagues, and Kathryn and I enjoy getting the family together via Facetime—everyone at the same time.

As a follow-up from my last message, we continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to work closely with the Tazewell County Health Department, and monitor updates from the Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The Tazewell County Health Department has reached out to potential contacts that were identified during the tracing protocol. They continue to check in frequently to assess these individuals’ conditions. At this time, no additional illnesses have been developed. Follow up may continue from other health departments for certain individuals who reside out of state. However, that does not mean our guards should be let down from social distancing and good hygiene. Please review our tips for good hygiene in our previous communications logged at: www.bluefield.edu/covid-19.

Like you, we continue to listen to our government leaders and health officials during this time. Hearing their calls to continue to stay-at-home, we are now moving our date to return to face-to-face instruction. For traditional students, Bluefield College will tentatively end remote classes on April 10, 2020 and return to face-to-face instruction on April 13, 2020. Let me again reiterate the word, tentatively. The situation continues to be fluid. College leadership will continue monitoring and making decisions in real time with the most current information. When we are closer to this date, we will communicate instructions for returning to campus for students, faculty, and staff.

At this time, our physical campus is shut down to all visitors with the exception of deliveries and vendors servicing campus. We are suspending campus tours for recruits and potential students until stay-at-home restrictions implemented by Governor Northam are lifted. Online tour options are available on our website and we encourage you to share the link to this video, or our Facebook post, with potential students: https://youtu.be/XgDeBbi05nM

I proudly share, as I meet with groups about Bluefield College, that one of our defining features is the outstanding care and attention our faculty and staff give to our students. Your professors and members of the Bluefield College staff stand-by ready to assist you, especially during times like this. To our faculty and staff, please know you have my greatest appreciation for the way you have continued to shine during this unprecedented situation. Students, here are a few items to be reminded of:

  • If you do not have access to a computer, reliable internet, word processing software (such as Microsoft Word), or anything else you need to be successful in your classes, please notify Alan Smith immediately. Alan can be reached at asmith@bluefield.edu and 276.326.4341. He is here to help you connect with the resources you need.
  • A program offering free access to ebooks for students who may have lost access to course materials with the rapid move to remote learning is available. If you previously accessed textbooks via the library, shared a book with a classmate, or left your books on campus, visit www.bookshelf.vitalsource.com to access free ebooks through May 25. To get started accessing free materials, please use your “@bluefield.edu” e-mail address to log in or create an account. Before you get started, we encourage you to review the student FAQ. ​We hope this will be of assistance to you as you continue your studies online. Please contact Jessy Mounts at jessymounts@bluefield.edu or call 276.326.4246 if you need assistance.
  • Tutoring remains available for almost every course. This can be done remotely, and your professors are also available to answer questions. A list of tutors is attached with this email.
  • Counseling services continue to be available to students during this time. This is a trying time and can weigh heavily on us all. Please do not feel you are alone. If you would like to set up a time to talk with a counselor, please email counseling@bluefield.edu.

Looking ahead, there are more conversations to be had concerning key events. At this time, we have not made a final decision as to commencement. However, per the e-mail from our BC Central team, if you are planning to graduate, please fill out the proper forms. Processes, like this, should continue as normal and our staff are still working to service student requests and forms. For residential students, summer housing will continue to be available to any student, domestic or international, should the student feel returning to home would be returning to a high-risk area. We will have communication out in the days ahead with instructions for this process. Please contact Dr. Joshua Arnold at jarnold@bluefield.edu or 276.326.4206 should you have any questions.

Please continue to be patient with the College and leadership during this unprecedented time. We will always use current information to inform our decisions in the days ahead. I understand the desire to have definite answers to questions, and some semblance of order and understanding in this uncertain time. I too would like to have a definite understanding of what the weeks ahead hold for our world. Bluefield College will provide information and updates to you as quickly as we can. While we do not have answers to every question, know we strive to provide you the best information as it is available. Finally, you should never hesitate to ask if you have a question.

Let’s make the most out of this unique circumstance to be all that we can be. With fewer distractions, let’s give more concentration and time to our studies and work. And, let’s be there for one another—whether that be 6 feet away or via a digital bite—to convey our friendship and love. Let’s continue to be the hands and feet of Christ in serving others!

MARCH 20, 2020 @ 8:30 P.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Bluefield College leadership has been notified that a Bluefield College student has tested positive for COVID-19. The student has been home, outside of Southwest Virginia, since Thursday, March 12, 2020 and was tested by the student’s physician earlier this week. Bluefield College immediately notified the Tazewell County Health Department. Their staff has begun a tracing protocol to track the student’s movements while on our campus and determine others who could have come in contact with the student.

We ask that you not panic at this news. Instead, please take a moment to evaluate your health condition. Remember, protocols are in place to assist you in doing this. Please visit the Virginia Department of Health website for these instructions: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/local-exposure/

For students who remain on campus, the Tazewell County Health Department representative said there is no need for self- or mandatory-quarantine.

We will continue to follow the lead of health officials from the Tazewell County Health Department and Virginia Department of Health. Please know that we will continue to sanitize campus each day as we have since the onset of this pandemic. For our students remaining on campus, and our entire campus community, we encourage you to continue these best practices:

 

  • Social distancing: Stay out of places with groups of people, avoid large events, and keep a distance of six-feet between you and anyone else when possible. Only go out for essential items. Please follow guidelines put in place by the Governor Northam and the Commonwealth of Virginia (or your state’s guidelines if you are outside of the Commonwealth). Continue to follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines as well.
  • Self-monitoring: If you feel symptomatic, check for a fever by taking your temperature twice a day. Be aware of any developing cough or difficulty breathing. Continue practicing social distancing and stay home. If you develop a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing while self-monitoring, call your health care provider for further instructions. Do not immediately go to the hospital or urgent care. Your health care provider will want to determine your symptoms before you enter a public space.
  • Self-quarantine: If you know you have been exposed or have likely been exposed to COVID-19 but do not yet have symptoms, you should self-quarantine. This means separating yourself from others (even within the same household) to prevent the spread of the virus at the direction of your health care provider.
  • If you are sick: If you have any symptoms, whether you have officially been tested for COVID-19 or not, the CDC offers a number of recommendations to help stop the community spread of COVID-19 and let you know when it’s safe to stop isolation and resume normal activities. You can find those instructions here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

 

Bluefield College leadership pledges to continue keeping our community informed by sharing information by press releases, campus e-mails, and by updating our webpage: www.bluefield.edu/covid-19. Up-to-date information on Virginia coronavirus cases can also be found from the Virginia Department of Health at: www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus. Please continue to look at these sources for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

MARCH 19, 2020 @ 6:44 P.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Good evening, Campus Community –

As we sent out last night via RAMAlert, there is one confirmed case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Mercer County, West Virginia. Our Crisis Management Team met this morning and has agreed to move employees to remote work settings effective Friday, March 20. These remote settings will be from home for an undetermined amount of time. As you know, the situation is fluid and ever changing. Therefore, we will continue to assess and monitor each day to determine when we can return to campus and our offices.

Although employees have remote work setting options, the campus will remain open with select staff. This is determined by the ELT/CLT member responsible for each area. Hourly employees will not lose compensation during this time. We will be sensitive to the needs of our campus community. Please do not hesitate to reach out to ELT members should you be in need of something.

As we work remotely in the days ahead please follow these instructions:

  • Remember, Bluefield College is not closed. We are remotely working. Employees will be available during normal operation hours from Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM.
  • Students who cannot go home or wish to stay will remain on campus.
  • Campus Safety will continue to operate as usual during these times.
  • On-campus phones will be forwarded to employees’ mobile, home, or soft phones during this time.
  • Please add the College’s default line on your e-mail signature. Instructions will soon follow this email.
  • Please utilize Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, and other Microsoft Office 365 features for communicating with one another while working from home. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our IST Department utilizing the Online Support Ticket through myBC.
  • Be sure you are staying in compliance with FERPA at all times in sharing of documents and mail during this period.
  • The Dining Hall, Chicory Coffee, and Campus Store will remain open to students and employees.
  • Please utilize the mail policy sent out by Campus Store Manager, Beth Kinser.
  • Should you have any Business Office questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to Business Office staff.

While we are taking these steps to mitigate risks to our faculty and staff, please remember the work of the College must go on. We have students to serve online, on campus, and the prospective students we need next fall.

I encourage you to not forget the students who are staying on campus. With most everyone working from home, the campus will seem more vacant. Please pray for them and their wellbeing; and if you are in the neighborhood, please stop by Shott Hall to interact with any of the students you may encounter.

MARCH 18, 2020 @ 5:00 P.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Good afternoon, Campus Community –

We have just learned that the student who had been tested for the COVID-19 virus has received a negative test result. We give thanks to God for her health and the health of our campus community. I know this issue had been weighing on the minds of a number of individuals.

Christian author Max Lucado offers this advice as we live through these uncertain times: “Feed your faith, not your fears. Your fears will starve to death.”

MARCH 17, 2020 @ 9:18 A.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. JOSHUA ARNOLD MESSAGE TO STUDENTS

Dear Students,

As many of you have returned home to ​remotely complete classes for the next two weeks, I am sure you have questions about what to expect as we aim to resume seated instruction. Rest assured that College Leadership continues to actively monitor the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which is rapidly changing each day. Given the unprecedented nature of this situation, we are making plans to resume seated instruction on March 30. However, College Leadership will not make that decision until we are closer to that date. This is to allow the most current information to inform our decision making. Therefore, the Student Forum has been postponed ​at this time until we can make this important decision and provide you more details. Please continue to check your BC email for more information regarding a future time and weblink to a Virtual Student Forum. ​​

Warmly,​​

Joshua Arnold, Ed.D.​
Associate Vice President | Student Development​

MARCH 13, 2020 @ 4:55 P.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Good afternoon, Campus Community –

Upon reaching a consensus together with our educational partner, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM), Bluefield College will cease all face-to-face classes and move to remote instruction. Remote instruction for traditional students at the Bluefield, VA campus will go until, at least, March 30, 2020. The College’s graduate students studying at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) campus in Blacksburg, VA will go at least until April 6, 2020.

Leading up to these dates, College officials will monitor and reassess the status of the pandemic. Bluefield College operations and services will continue to remain fully operational during this time with restricted travel and visitor intake processes remaining in place.

Bluefield College leadership has been consistently monitoring the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) during the spring semester. This has been done in conjunction with local, state, and national health officials. The safety of the campus community continues to remain College leadership’s top priority.

As of today, we have learned of a BC student who has been tested for the COVID-19 virus as recommended by the student’s physician. The student is not on campus and is awaiting test results. Our prayers are with the student and for a negative result.

I realize this is disconcerting news for everyone. From what I have been told, the student is not displaying any symptoms listed on the CDC website, which are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. I repeat, the student was not exhibiting these symptoms.

I ask that everyone remain calm and refrain from jumping to conclusions. Doing so is not helpful to our student and the student’s family, nor does it help the College or residents in our community. Tests, from what I have been told, normally take 24-48 hours for results. As soon as I learn of the test results, that information will be shared with our campus community and health officials immediately.

Remote Instruction

For traditional students, all face-to-face courses will be held online and via alternative instruction methods beginning Thursday, March 19, 2020 (traditional classes will be suspended until then to allow faculty and staff to prepare for the transition to online course delivery). All online classes will continue to be delivered as usual. Students with questions or concerns should first reach out to their class instructor(s), then followed by the Office of Academic Affairs at 276.326.4456.

Residential Students

Health officials at the national level are encouraging individuals to not remain in close proximity during this pandemic. Therefore, we are permitting residential students to return home any time after classes ending today, Friday, March 13, 2020, and no later than Monday, March 16, 2020. Students who live on campus and choose to leave may leave the majority of their belongings in their residence hall rooms (students should remove all trash and food from their rooms and should close and lock all windows and doors). Residential students who choose to return home may NOT come and go from campus during this time.

Residential students, for whom this region is safer, may plan to remain on campus rather than returning home. International students, pursuant to federal regulations, MUST remain on campus. Student Development staff will also remain on campus to service and provide assistance to those students staying on campus.

College Operations

Again, Bluefield College is not closed. Faculty and staff members should continue to keep their normal routines. All athletic contests and practices are currently suspended until April 5, 2020. Events at Bluefield College held by outside entities, courses through the Fine Arts Community School (FACS), and Bluefield College departments are also postponed during this time (concerts, festivals, etc.). Decisions related to future operations, events on campus, and services will continue to be made in the days ahead.

Highlands Fellowship

Highlands Fellowship will continue to meet at their regularly scheduled time unless modified at a later date. Announcements will come directly from Highlands Fellowship.

Please know that this was not an easy decision to come to for College leadership. However, as we talk with our educational partner, VCOM, we both feel it is the responsible decision to make at this time for the health and safety of our campus community. Also, College leaders believe the online modality is the best way to assist our students as they continue working to complete coursework for this semester to attain their academic and career goals.

It is our goal to resume normal academic and residential operations on March 30, 2020. Bluefield College will continue to monitor the dynamic situation, and we will adjust our decision making as the pandemic evolves. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to continue checking their emails during this time for up-to-date information, as well as checking the www.bluefield.edu/covid-19 webpage.

Finally, I would like to convey my deepest thanks to our Crisis Management Team for their work during this ever-changing situation. They are faculty and staff members with a dedication to care for our students. Students, please know we cherish you and your families. Your success is of the utmost importance.

Should anyone have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach me at david.olive@bluefield.edu or 276-326-4466.

MARCH 12, 2020 @ 9:20 P.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Good evening, Campus Community –

I would like to begin tonight’s communication with a note of reassurance for you. Earlier today, College leaders spoke with several health professionals responsible for public health protocols in our region, including our regional health department. The discussions covered many topics, but focused on the College’s actions and communications. I am happy to share their overwhelming approval. I share this not to brag or detract from the seriousness of this ongoing situation in anyway. Instead, it is my hope that it will help you find peace in this time of uncertainty.

Let me now respond to our campus community members concerned about the student who went home today, along with the other members of our spring break mission teams. First, there is confusion about whether this student was tested for COVID-19. This individual was not tested because the student did not exhibit symptoms of the virus. There are rumors going around campus that she was tested, and even more far-fetched stories of the student being confirmed with the virus. Those things are simply not true.

Additionally, a number of students and parents have expressed anxiety that the individuals who participated in recent mission trips are actively part of our community and not in quarantine. This topic was covered with health professionals in today’s conversations. When asked if these individuals should immediately go in for testing or be quarantined, the response was a sound “no.” We have been told, and have read in our daily briefings, that an individual must be exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms before a doctor will require a test. These individuals have been encouraged by these same health professionals to reach out to their primary care providers to inform them of their travel as a first step. They are encouraged to follow the medical professional’s requests from that point. We were also told they did not need to be quarantined unless they were exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

If you have not seen e-mail communications from Student Development today to our students, please read those messages. I will recap these items for you:

  1. Our Town Hall Forum for you to hear from College leadership, ask questions, and take away facts to make informed decisions will be Monday, March 16, 2020, at 4:00 p.m. in the Lyceum. Additional details will come in the days ahead of how to participate, including virtual participation options.
  2. Remember, if you feel you are sick please seek medical help immediately from your primary care physician, MedExpress, or go to the hospital. Please contact GluedRAs if you need assistance with transportation by calling 276.873.0075. This number goes directly to a full-time Residence Director who will assist you. If you have any financial concerns, please notify College leadership as well. We are here to assist you. Your primary care physician or hospital physician will test you if you are displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Here are CDC guidelines for identifying symptoms: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html
  3. If you are a student who is sick, please do not feel like you have to go without assistance as you recover. Our Student Development team has a process in place to provide food and other care items. Please refer to Director of Residence Life Jess Smith’s earlier messages for more information or ask your Residence Hall staff.
  4. Cleaning supplies have been placed around campus. In addition to the work housekeeping staff is already doing, please do your part to help keep areas clean and sanitized. Please be a sharer and not a hoarder; these items are getting harder to acquire at this time. We will restock items as needed and as they are available.
  5. Glued events are taking place on campus this weekend. If you are well, please enjoy the time together with other students. Further, our Student Development staff is interested in what you would like to see taking place during this time. Do not hesitate to share with them.

Remember, in Southwest Virginia and on our campus there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at this time. We continue to be proactive by sharing CDC guidelines with you. These guidelines, when put into practice, are a good defense for healthy individuals to stay healthy. Students, we encourage you, not just today but every day, to heed sound counsel in your life. Follow these simple guidelines. Maintain a healthy lifestyle with moderate exercise, a healthy diet, and an appropriate amount of sleep.

Bluefield College leaders continue to prepare for all scenarios that could impact the completion of the semester. Again, this should not alarm you. It should provide a reassurance that College leadership has proactive plans in place to handle situations as they potentially could change. The limiting of travel, cancellation of events, and intake process of visitors to campus are proactive measures that do not guarantee our campus immunity from the pandemic. Rather, they are measures to be as cautious as possible. Further, our COVID-19 website will be up tomorrow. Please refer to it, and encourage others to refer to it, as a means for up-to-date information from Bluefield College. We will send additional messages via email and social media when it is available.

Should you or your family wish to speak to me, I welcome your call, text, or email. I will respond as I can. I will also attempt to address similar questions/concerns through community messages, such as this. We will continue to be in constant conversation as we monitor the COVID-19 situation. Again, please be prayerful for our campus community, our nation, and global community as we navigate each day and as we remember and give thanks that God is still God—our Rock, our Fortress, and our Deliverer.

“My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” ~ Psalms 18:2

MARCH 12, 2020 @ 11:26 A.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Good morning, Campus Community –

As promised in previous communications, we are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 (coronavirus). You are most likely aware, on a national scale, that the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and last night President Trump restricted travel to mainland Europe. On a local scale, Bluefield College has updates as well.​

We are currently in the process of creating our COVID-19 page on the website. This page will provide our campus community, parents, and the local community information on our actions related to the pandemic. It will also provide information on frequently asked questions, steps on what to do in a variety of situations, a catalog of official College communications, and links to helpful information from trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).​

Student Development is also in the process of setting up a student town hall forum in the immediate future. This forum will allow students to hear from College leadership, ask questions, and take away facts to make informed decisions. We will announce this time and place very soon. We are also implementing travel restrictions for anyone traveling on a College-sponsored activity if he or she is feeling ill. The Appalachian Athletic Conference has specifically banned any student athlete that is ill from team travel. Finally, members of faculty have been asked to make plans for the rest of the semester should we need to move to an online format for the rest of the academic year. Please note we are not moving to online at this time, just making necessary plans.​

At this time we have a student taking action to self-quarantine at the recommendation of health providers. Due to the student’s confidentiality rights, we cannot disclose the situation, other than to say the current symptoms do not present as COVID-19. We can share that the situation is being monitored by the student’s family with College leadership staying in close contact. We believe in acting in an abundance of caution, and appreciate the student’s dedication to safety. ​

I would ask that each of us do our best to remain calm. I understand that it is easy to look at the current situation and quickly race to the worse case scenarios. In no way does this minimize our attention to the ongoing details of the pandemic. In fact, College leadership met with Bluefield Regional Medical Center officials to ensure protocols are in place, should they be needed. Remember, if you feel you are sick please seek medical help immediately from your primary care physician, MedExpress, or go to hospital. Please contact GluedRAs if you need assistance with transportation. If you have any financial concerns, please notify College leadership as well. We are here to assist you. Your primary care physician or hospital physician will test you if you are displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Here are CDC guidelines for identifying symptoms: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html

Please know that the College continues to take steps to keep campus as disinfected as possible. Our facilities team is cleaning facilities at a higher frequency than normal. Commonly touched areas, such as desks, door handles, and keyboards, are being given extra attention. Please continue to follow CDC protocols in keeping your own spaces as clean as possible as well. It is important we all remain vigilant in cleanliness with other viruses still in play at well, such as the flu virus and stomach virus.​

Should you or your family wish to speak to me. I welcome your call, text, or email. We will continue to be in constant conversation monitoring the situation. Again, please be prayerful in all things and know that God continues to be God and we should place our trust in him.

MARCH 11, 2020 PRESS RELEASE TO MEDIA FROM BLUEFIELD COLLEGE

Bluefield College leadership has been consistently monitoring the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) during the spring semester. The safety of our campus community is our top priority. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and health departments at the regional and state levels have served as the guide for decision-making during this time. In addition, communication with other colleges, universities, and educational partners have provided ongoing dialogue about best practices.

With no outbreak in the region, at this time, Bluefield College will continue operating a normal class schedule. College leadership will continue to monitor situations, on a daily basis, with ongoing communication to students, employees, and constituency groups. The campus community continues to be encouraged to follow CDC and health department guidelines for hygiene.

As of Wednesday, March 11, 2020, two protocols have been immediately put into effect until a time designated by College leadership:

  • Essential Travel Policy: In an effort to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 during official travel, Bluefield College authorizes only essential travel at this time. Athletic teams have been restricted to conference play. Other student related travel will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Travel to certain areas will be monitored by College leadership. Students are highly encouraged to share travel plans with Student Development officials when considering personal travel to areas outside the region, but are not restricted from personal travel. Official travel for faculty and staff will be subject to approval by the College Leadership Team member supervising the employee’s area. College leadership encourages employees to be conscious of sharing travel to areas outside the region.
  • Visitor Screening Protocol: All out-of-area visitors to campus events will be required to complete a screening process prior to their arrival to campus. Beginning immediately, prospective students and families, campus speakers, and other campus guests, will be asked to answer several questions. These questions will seek to determine whether they have been in an area impacted by the virus, in contact with anyone with the virus, and/or are personally suffering from or around others with flu-like symptoms. ​ College officials aim to deter anyone that could be ill from being on campus until the individual(s) know they are well.

For more information, please contact Joshua Cline, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, at 304.960.9195 or jcline@bluefield.edu.

MARCH 11, 2020 @ 9:14 P.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Earlier today a number of major universities announced moving to online platforms to complete the spring semester, including two in our region—Virginia Tech and UVA-Wise. I also participated in a conference call with presidents of Virginia private colleges and learned five institutions were announcing extended spring breaks and movement to online course completions. All five institutions are in or near large metropolitan areas ​with higher population densities. The vast majority of Virginia private colleges are doing what ​our leadership is doing —monitoring the situation day-to-day.

The safety of our campus community is our top priority. Our response team for situations, like this, met today to determine our course of action at this time. In an effort to mitigate risks that might lead to individuals being infected by the COVID-19 virus, we are ​immediately implementing two policies. The first is an essential travel restriction for the foreseeable future. This will particularly affect our spring athletic teams. Only conference games will be played at this time​, and travel to certain areas will be monitored by College leadership. ​Other student-related ​college travel will be determined on a case-by-case basis. ​Students are highly encouraged to share travel plans with Student Development personnel when considering personal travel to areas outside the region, but are not restricted from personal travel. Official travel for faculty and staff will be subject to approval by the College Leadership Team (CLT) member supervising the employee’s area. We ask that employees be conscious too of sharing personal travel to areas outside the region that could be affected.

The other policy relates to screening visitors, ideally prior to their arrival to campus, but certainly upon their arrival. Beginning immediately, prospective students and families, campus speakers, and other campus guests, will be asked several questions to determine whether they should be on campus. We will do our best to deter visitors that could be ill from being on campus until they know they are well. However, we cannot make any guarantees.​

While neither of these tactics are full proof, our goal is to mitigate risks. We also ask that you continue following these basic steps in maintaining a healthy environment and perspective for yourself and others:​

      • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough and sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hands. Immediately wash/sanitize your hands.​
      • Stay home or in your dorm room when you are sick, outside of seeking medical care.​
      • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces following CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfection.​
      • Wash hands often with soap and water, and if soap and water are not readily available then use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

    • Talk with someone about current stresses, and please remember our counseling center is open to you.​
    • And, there is no substitution for prayer. Pray for those who are ill and for the healthcare providers tending to their needs. Pray for good health and the courage and strength to live each day in a way that honors and glorifies God.

As mentioned earlier, your health and well-being is our most important concern in the remaining weeks of the semester. We are dedicated to being a place that prepares you to be a servant leader. As a community of servant leaders, we collectively are equipped to care for one another in a variety of ways. While it is tempting to give in to fear and paranoia at times like this, I encourage you to maintain a positive outlook and work with other students to ensure everyone is well informed and is keeping up with critical information. Help us create a community that stays healthy together and serves one another.​

Please continue to monitor your email, BC app, and BC website for updates.

MARCH 11, 2020 @ 8:58 A.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

Bluefield College’s leadership is continuing to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 situation our world is facing. We continue to follow the directives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and our state/regional health departments. At this time the CDC is providing guidance for institutions, like Bluefield College, for this situation. Our responding teams are meeting today on campus to review current protocols, and discuss future plans in line with CDC instructions. You can find that information here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

This is not to alarm you, but to inform you that College leaders are taking appropriate planning steps for the situations as they are, or could, arise. We will continue to be in communication with you in the days ahead as more information comes, or should the situation change. Please continue to be vigilant about wellness and cleanliness. I urge you to follow these CDC guidelines:​

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough and sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hands. Immediately wash/sanitize your hands.
  • Stay home or in your dorm room when you are sick, outside of seeking medical care.​
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces following CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfection​
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, and if soap and water are not readily available then use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Talk with someone about current stresses, and please remember our counseling center is open to you.​

Finally, I ask you again to keep those fighting this illness, our healthcare workers and community, and our civic leaders in your thoughts and prayers as they respond to COVID-19.

MARCH 5, 2020 @ 5:06 P.M. E-MAIL FROM DR. OLIVE TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY

I would like to take a moment to discuss the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as spring break ends and many return to campus to conclude the spring semester. Please be assured the situation is being monitored by College leaders each day. We are closely following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updates; we are reviewing updates from state and regional health departments; and we are in frequent communication with other colleges and universities concerning their responses. Further, our facilities team is frequently cleaning spaces.

At this time, we have no plans to close our campus due to the Coronavirus. We are fortunate that our region has no known outbreaks, at this time. However, we must be prepared and aware of ways to ensure we all stay as healthy as possible and, in general, prevent the spread of disease. This time of year typically brings with it a variety of other diseases, like influenza and stomach viruses. I would encourage you to follow these tips:​

  • Seek professional medical care if you feel sick
  • Stay at home or in your dorm room at all times if you are sick to not spread germs​
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food​
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth​
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or in the crook of your arm, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash hands​
  • Know the difference between “clean” and “tidy” by frequently using a disinfectant cleaner in personal spaces and shared spaces​

It is always important to listen to facts from credible sources, especially in moments like this one. I encourage each of you to visit the CDC’s webpage on Coronavirus facts: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts-stop-fear.html. There is also good information being provided by the World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus.

Finally, I would ask that we all be in prayer for the following groups of people: those fighting this illness and their families; researchers as they seek a means to combat this virus; and government and civic leaders as they enforce proper protocols related to the disease. We will continue to communicate with you should the situation change. Best wishes to each of you in the remainder of this academic year.

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