The Grace Street Apartments usually hold 480-500 students during the school year, Kelsey Snyder, the hall director of Grace Street Apartments, said. Now, Grace Street is the only on-campus building that remains open, housing 26 residents who’ve chosen to remain at JMU.
On March 26 and 27, students were relocated from their on-campus housing to Grace Street Apartments for quarantine. Some international students ended up moving in early the next week because of canceled flights Holmes Browne, the associate director of business operations for the Office of Residence Life, said.
“Everyone is in their own apartment, besides a couple of people who are siblings, and they chose to be together,” Snyder said.
Browne said that it wasn't realistic to expect students to move all of their belongings to Grace Street. ORL provided students with rolling carts to bring their items to a facilities management moving crew, who then transported the students’ belongings to the new location.
“For the most part, it was pretty smooth,” Browne said.
Browne said that his job “has been very different” while JMU is closed due to the coronavirus. Since Mid-March, his main role is going through the buildings and identifying what has been left behind. He’s working on the Skyline area, which includes Chandler, Chesapeake, Shenandoah and Paul Jennings Hall.
Hugh Brown, the associate director of residence life, said some of the reasons that students chose to stay at JMU included being international students, not having a good home life, having immunocompromised family members or not wanting to return to an area with a higher COVID-19 presence than Harrisonburg.
“We have a lot of students from New York and New Jersey, and they felt it might be safer to stay here,” Brown said. “We made arrangements for them to stay.”
Right now, card access is restricted to all buildings. If a student wishes to come to campus to pick up their belongings, they must email ORL within a 72-hour notice. Brown said that ORL is making sure that two people aren’t moving out from the same floor at the same time.
Brown said they’re not putting pressure on anyone to make unsafe travel decisions or violate Gov. Northam’s (D) executive order by coming to JMU. Brown also said that some hall directors are still in dorms and working with their staff to stay in contact with residents who’ve left by hosting virtual programs and virtual floor meetings.
“…It’s been hard trying to figure out how to help because we still are reaching out to the people who used to live in our buildings through email and just sending out reports and reminding them about the things that are still available even though they are online,” Snyder said.
Brown said that ORL will be sending an email soon to residents about Transit Systems Inc. (TSI) shipping. If students can’t come back to campus but want some of their belongings, TSI shipping will pack up their stuff and either store it or ship it back to students.
“We can’t make any firm plans about the future until we know about reopening guidelines,” Brown said. “Everything is still shut down by the governor. We’re working on several different contingencies for if the university does reopen in August on time. There’s nothing formal yet.”
Contact Mitchell Sasser at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.