Roanoke College flag with fall leaves
By Roanoke College News

Updates To Our Fall 2020 Return to Roanoke Plan

Dear Maroon family - 

I hope this note finds you well and coping positively with all of the changes happening in our world. We have been thinking about the health and safety of each of you and our commitment to delivering an enriching Roanoke College educational experience during these challenging times. I write to you today to let you know we are adjusting our plans for returning to campus this fall semester.

Because COVID-19 cases in our area and the nation have not dissipated as much as we had hoped, we are announcing today a phased return to campus. Prioritization of community safety coupled with a nationwide concern about the availability of testing supplies, including lagging test result turnaround times, led us to determine that the best plan of action is for residential students to return to campus in groups throughout August and September, beginning with new and international students on Aug. 15. 

I know this is a change that brings inconvenience; I apologize for that. I also hope you understand that the change is worth it to lessen the health risk to you, your professors and Roanoke College staff.

A phased return of students will enable us to test and attentively care for each group with more testing capacity and less test result lag time upon each group’s arrival. These decisions are made by the Roanoke College Incident Command Team, in consultation with local, state and national health professionals. Additionally, our return to campus plan was submitted to and approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia this summer.

Below is an overview of our plans for the phased return:

Group 1 - Aug. 15. New freshmen, new transfer students and international students arrive. 

  • At check-in, Group 1 will receive an appointment for a RT-PCR test. We will be administering tests on Saturday Aug. 15 and Sunday 16. (The College expects to receive those test results within 48 hours.)
  • A limited number of student employees who need to be on campus will arrive on their originally scheduled day. Those students will be notified by their work supervisor about their return date. They will also be tested.

Group 2 will include seniors. We will implement a lottery system for the return of sophomores and juniors in Groups 2 and 3.

  • Group 2 - Aug. 29. Seniors and lottery-selected sophomores and juniors arrive. Group 2 students will receive testing information closer to their arrival date. 
  • Group 3 - Sept. 5. All remaining students arrive. Group 3 students will receive testing information closer to their arrival date. 

All classes will begin online. Once all residential students have moved to campus, classes will switch to a mix of online, in-person and hybrid (classroom and online combination.) The first day of day classes for all students is on Aug. 19, as originally planned. (Tuesday evening classes meet first on the evening of Aug. 18.) All classes will be online to start (except for select in-person classes for freshmen). Most courses will switch to in-person or hybrid formats on Monday, Sept. 7 (Labor Day). The academic calendar is unchanged.

Please keep an eye out for the following communications in your Roanoke College email:

  • Jimmy Whited, director of Residence Life & Housing, will contact you with specifics on move-in. Details about the move-in lottery for sophomores and juniors will be forthcoming.  
  • Sandy McGhee, director of Roanoke’s Student Health and Counseling Services, will provide information about preparations needed by all students before arriving on campus. 
  • An update on account adjustments will be forthcoming from the Business Affairs office.

This announcement of our new, slower reopening plan provides me with a good opportunity to reinforce the additional health and safety measures we have been implementing all summer in anticipation of students returning to campus. I ask that you to read through our full reopening plan to learn more about the extensive measures put in place, including regular disinfecting by cleaning crews, improved air filtration, and reconfigured classroom, common spaces and dining service options.

Updated College policies this semester require fabric face coverings to be worn in public indoor spaces and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. You will need to submit a Health Assessment every day. You also will find distancing in all in-person classrooms and common areas as well as important changes to walking traffic flow with on-campus signage and designated spaces for students to congregate safely. We are asking you to sign our health pledge upon arrival and Health Services has a robust student testing and quarantine plan in place.

I know you will have more questions. Please visit for updated information and answers to questions you may have. Additional questions may also be sent to

Although the semester will be very different this year, we are planning a wide variety of activities tailor-made for a rich residential experience in the current environment. We especially want our new and returning Maroons to feel connected to the Roanoke College community from the start. 

While I know this news may be disappointing, the need to keep our campus community safe remains our greatest commitment. We also may need to adjust our plans based on the evolving nature of this virus and recommendations from government health officials. You and your family will continue to hear from us as we navigate through this new territory, and we are grateful for your continued patience and flexibility.

We have an incredible team ready to work with you to make the fall semester productive, safe and enriching.

Stay safe Maroons and we’re excited to see you soon,

President Michael C. Maxey