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JMU Students to return to campus, with restrictions

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 1:36 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - At James Madison University, officials say they’ve come up with a plan to keep COVID-19 at bay. This comes three weeks after the university became the only one in the state to move classes online, and move students off campus, due to a spike in coronavirus cases.

“I kinda like screamed,” said JMU freshman Brooke Heptinstall. “I was really excited. And then I called my roommate.”

Heptinstall was one of hundreds of students who had to move off campus three weeks ago. Now, she says she’s counting the days until she can go back to her dorm.

But the campus Heptinstall will be returning to is a different place - at least according to the university.

In a release sent out over the weekend and updated Monday, university President Jonathan Alger says JMU has upped its precautions and requirements for students. Class sizes will be capped at 50, fall break has been canceled, and quarantine and isolation space has been tripled. The university says it’s also bringing on a team of scientific advisors, and plans to test 300 “non-symptomatic students” per week, in an effort to root out outbreaks before they happen.

That last change puts JMU in line with other Virginia universities, including Virginia Tech, which announced random COVID-19 testing Friday.

“I think that it’s an improvement,” said Heptinstall, adding she’s looking forward to an end to the weeks of online learning.

She just wishes the university had taken these extra precautions sooner.

“I think that maybe if they had put them in at the beginning, we would have either lasted longer or wouldn’t have gotten sent home at all," she said.

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