HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - James Madison University announced Thursday their COVID-19 vaccine guidelines for students returning to campus in the fall.
JMU leadership followed guidance set by the American College Health Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All students are required to show proof that they have been fully vaccinated in order to attend in-person classes and on-campus activities. But there are exemptions for students with medical and religious accommodations, or those who complete a risk assumption form.
“We’re certainly excited to get back in person and to welcome students back to the community and to campus, but it’s important that we do so in a safe and healthy manner,” said university spokesperson Mary-Hope Vass.
JMU’s leaders have been working closely with local, state, and national organizations to come up with the safest reopening plan, but members of the JMU community have split opinions on the vaccine requirements.
“I’m personally a little bit leery about it and I was shocked but not really because I feel like other institutions are starting to do it so JMU is gonna jump on board with that,” said JMU student Sierra Lambert.
Lambert points to how much quicker the COVID vaccine was approved by the FDA compared to previous vaccines. Others are applauding the decision.
“I think it’s a really good thing, I mean students are gonna be learning in person and they’re gonna be doing so safely,” said Douglas Stewart, a parent of a JMU freshman. “We’re all for people going back to school, learning with each other and being with each other in a campus environment.”
Students who file for an exemption from the vaccine will have to engage in other safety protocols.
“JMU still reserves the right to require them to participate in risk mitigation strategies such as wearing a mask, undergoing COVID testing or going into isolation or quarantine if needed,” said Vass.
Details are still being ironed out but the plan will allow JMU to have fully in-person learning. “I think it’s a great thing,” said Stewart. “I think one of the things just coming here is just imagining this place populated with students and teachers, you know, that’s what a campus should be.”
The university says it will continue to adapt as new directives and public health guidelines emerge.
Students must upload proof of their vaccination or exemption forms to their MyJMUChart by July 8th. JMU says it will work with students who complete exemption forms over the next few months.