November 3rd, 2020
The One VLS Action Team (OVAT), has decided on a spring semester plan. The plan is outlined below and is subject to change as additional information becomes available about the spread of the virus nationally, locally, and within our community, and upon advice from local and national agencies and public health officials.
- VLS will be mostly Virtual for the Spring 2021 Semester. No student is required to be back on campus for the spring 2021 semester. All classes and clinical experiences will be available virtually. Virtual classes will begin on Monday, January 11, 2021 as previously scheduled. Term 1 Online classes will begin on Monday, January 4, 2021, as previously scheduled.
- Possible 1L Partial Residential Section. For students who are already living in or near South Royalton or would like to be this spring, we plan to make some of the 1L classes available residentially subject to certain constraints.
- Students will be able to choose whether to be in the partial residential/partial virtual section – Spring Semester Hybrid (SSH) - or the full virtual section, but they will not be able to switch once the semester starts.
- Not all of the 1L classes will be available residentially; students who choose SSH will still have some classes virtually. All students who opt in for SSH will be tested regularly on campus, as will faculty and staff who are regularly on campus (likely weekly). All classes will be held in Chase with 6 feet social distancing between students and masks must be worn during all class times and in the school buildings.
- The SSH section will not begin residentially until February 1, but residential students will need to be back on campus on January 11 for mandatory testing and quarantine and will be virtual until February 1. If conditions change, and the virus continues to spike in our area, or there is an outbreak on campus, we may delay the start of residential classes or transition back entirely to virtual classes. It is also possible there may be additional lock downs ordered by the state or national government, which will necessitate a move back to virtual or a delay in beginning the residential classes.
- Possible Master’s Classes Residentially. We are continuing to explore whether some Master’s classes may be available residentially during the spring semester. If we are able to make that happen, these classes will also be available virtually.
- Events. All events will be virtual for the spring semester; visitors are prohibited from campus except as outlined in the Visitor Policy.
- Clinics. Students in the South Royalton Legal Clinic may choose to participate residentially or virtually. Students who participate residentially will be subject to social distancing, testing and other safety protocols. The Legislative Clinic may be partially residential depending on whether the Vermont Legislature resumes in person. All other clinics will be offered virtually, but we are working on making collaborative workspaces available on campus for virtual clinic students who are living in the area. Small group supervisory meetings and field trips are also possible. Students who choose to use the collaborative workspaces will be subject to testing and social distancing protocols.
- JD Externships. The JD Externship Program will teach all of its seminar courses virtually through the VLS online learning platform. This is consistent with VLS’s COVID plans, but also how the courses are taught in non-pandemic times due to JD externship placements spanning the country. The Program anticipates most placements will be fully virtual during the spring semester but is allowing for some in-person work when it is preferred by both the student and the placement and appropriate safety measures are in place.
- Fitness Center. We are working on a plan to open the Gym on a limited basis, with advance sign up and social distancing.
- Library and Study Space. Students who are tested and follow protocols will still be able to use the Library, high speed printers, and other study spaces on campus; as well as the Yates Common Room for eating.
- Commencement. We have not yet made a decision about Commencement, currently scheduled for May 15, 2021, but are still hopeful to be able to have an in-person celebration for the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020.
- Summer Term. We will make a decision about whether the summer term will be residential or virtual no later than April 1, 2021.
- Campus Closure in February. The campus will be closed to everyone on February 23 and 24, 2021 to allow students to take the online bar on campus.
- Virtual Teaching. We will continue to work on improving our virtual teaching - we will be conducting several focus groups on what has worked and what could be improved and making some technological upgrades. If you are interested in participating in a focus group, email Dean McCormack.
- Spring Break. We will be making a final decision about spring break in the coming days, but we hope to be able to maintain the week-long mid-semester suspension of classes. Students in residential classes will not be permitted to leave Vermont without quarantining and testing upon return.
- Leaves of Absence. Students may take a Leave of Absence for the Spring semester if they wish. Contact Dean McCormack directly to discuss.
We know this decision is disappointing for some, as it is for us. We miss so much about the pre-COVID world, but mostly the face-to-face interactions that make learning and working at Vermont Law School a privilege.
We recognize that there is a possibility of a vaccine in the coming months, which would make a return to normal possible. But we made the best decision we could with the information we have now, without the benefit of hindsight, and guided by a recognition of our physical space limitations on campus, the national and local outlook, and the experience of other schools this semester. We made this decision after listening to significant input from students, faculty and staff. We made this decision staying true to our most important goals: keeping our community safe and providing the best education possible. In this moment, we also recognize the need for our community to have certainty, perhaps above all else. We wish things were different and we will continue to imagine the day when we can be together in the Green Mountains, for a reunion like none other before.
Vice Dean Beth McCormack on behalf of the OVAT
June 29th, 2020
Vermont Law School will hold all fall 2020 classes online. On-campus classes will be held virtually, in a live synchronous format. No on-campus, residential courses will be offered during the semester. Additionally, Vermont Law School will offer a new "January Start" for first-year Juris Doctor students.
The One VLS Action Team meets regularly to address issues affecting the law school that has arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to move to online classes only was not arrived at lightly. While Vermont is presently a low-risk state, the pandemic is continuing to rage in parts of the country where many VLS students live. This is a contributing factor to the decision. It could make travel more challenging and perhaps difficult for students to come to campus or return home.
"We strive to provide a consistent educational experience for all of our students while being sensitive to our community's safety and security," said Dean Thomas McHenry, President and Dean of Vermont Law School. "The most demanding challenge posed by the pandemic is uncertainty. We want to provide as much notice to our students, facility, and staff, and we can plan appropriately and deliver the high-quality course content and access to faculty that VLS is known for."
Additional details regarding the fall semester, including access to the campus library and operation of VLS' legal clinics, is forthcoming and will be available at www.vermontlaw.edu/COVID19.
May 28th, 2020
With deep sadness, we regret to announce that we have decided to postpone the Commencement ceremony, which had been rescheduled for Saturday, August 8. We were optimistic that we would return to normalcy and gather together by early August. Unfortunately, the Governor's Order requires all those who have been out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days and that would not be workable for the many out-of-town guests we expect to attend Commencement.
On behalf of the Vermont Law School community, I regret the disappointment this announcement will surely bring to our graduates, as it does to our entire community. Each year we look forward to seeing our graduates and handing them their diplomas.
We will celebrate Commencement on May 15, 2021 along with the Class of 2021. We look forward to joyfully welcoming the Class of 2020 back to South Royalton next May and providing both classes -- 2020 and 2021 -- with the pomp and circumstance so richly deserved. There will be bagpipes and champagne, hopefully sun and no snow, and our proud faculty, staff and families will gather around to celebrate this important accomplishment. Diplomas will be handed out at that ceremony, or they can be picked up on campus or mailed this summer.
Thank you, Class of 2020, for your patience and understanding. All of us at VLS wish you the best and welcome you as part of the alumni family.
April 1st, 2020
Today the decision was made to continue with virtual classes during the summer session. Based on the information we currently have from the CDC and our national and state governments, we believe this is the most responsible decision for the safety and health of our community. This decision applies to our entire summer program, including all of the Environmental Program classes, as well as our traditional JD, AJD and Master's offerings. All classes will be through the virtual model many of your classes are currently in. Our truly online summer classes will also go on as planned.
Even without residential classes, we will open the physical campus, fitness center and library as soon as it is safe to do so. We are still planning on holding Commencement on the new date of August 8 and joyfully celebrating the Class of 2020. We are also planning on resuming our residential classes for the Fall 2020 semester. We will let you know as soon as possible if there are any changes.
We know this decision is disappointing, as it is for us. We will all miss the special beauty of our campus in the summer and the chance to learn together in the midst of the Green Mountains under the summer sun. We do miss, and will continue to miss, seeing you in person. But perhaps many of you across the country or the globe will now have an opportunity to experience the truly unique Vermont Law School summer program virtually. Stay strong, Swans, there will be an end to this challenging time, and we will welcome each of you back to our physical campus warmly and joyfully, with a new sense of resilience, and a deeper appreciation of the gift of seeing and learning with one another in person.
Vice Dean Beth McCormack on behalf of the COVID-19 Task Force
March 26th, 2020
Vermont Law School announces the establishment of the VLS COVID-19 Hardship Fund. Currently enrolled students, faculty, and staff who demonstrate need may apply for financial support from the Fund, which will help cover various expenses, including:
- Medial Needs
- Technology (i.e., computer equipment for online learning)
To make a gift to the Fund, please click here and select the COVID-19 Hardship Fund Designation. To learn more please view the list of FAQs or contact Brooke Herndon, Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development at email@example.com or 802-831-1078.
The COVID-19 Task Force
March 17th, 2020
The COVID-19 Task Force met today and unanimously decided that, in the best interest of our community, VLS's physical campus closure should extend until the end of the Spring Semester.
Accordingly, there will be no on-campus classes or on-campus events for the rest of the Spring Semester. We appreciate everyone’s willingness to move to “Virtual VLS” from classes to meetings and everything in between. We will likely encounter bumps and swerves, but we have faith in our community that we will all be able to rise to the occasion and continue to provide a meaningful legal and policy education outside of the walls of our physical campus. The American Bar Association and other accreditors support this decision, and students will be able to successfully complete and earn credit for their Spring Semester classes in a virtual format.
We have not yet made a decision about Commencement and the Summer Session, but the Task Force is discussing these issues this week. We will communicate with you on this as soon as we have information available. In addition, please visit the Coronavirus COVID-19 FAQ Page for a complete listing of policies, procedures, and support options available to the VLS community. Note, however, that the timing of the conferral of degrees, and eligibility for students to sit for the bar this summer, will not be impacted by these changes.
Thank you for your understanding, patience, and resilience, both over the last few weeks and in the weeks to come. Take care of yourselves and each other and let us know how we can support you.
The COVID-19 Task Force
March 11th, 2020
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, the number of cases has increased domestically. We know many members of our community have traveled widely this week.
After consultation with other schools and state experts, we need to take steps as a community to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. Our best opportunity to do so is to reduce the density of our population on our campus, thereby decreasing the risk of community spread. Currently, we are aware of no cases of infection in our immediate community, however, positive cases have been confirmed and are expected to continue to be confirmed in our region.
In light of this and in the best interests of our community, we are closing our physical campus to students effective Monday, March 16 until at least March 30.
Below are the steps we are taking to ensure that academic activities, progress, and quality of instruction continue with as little disruption as possible.
Classes Suspended Monday and Tuesday, March 16 and 17
To continue to prepare for this change, residential classes will be suspended on Monday and Tuesday, March 16 and 17. A few classes will go on remotely at the scheduled time on the 16th and 17th. Students in those classes will be contacted directly by their Professor with instructions.
Beginning on Wednesday, March 18, all classes and meetings will be moved online. Professors will provide instructions to students on how to join the class. There is a possibility that this move to virtual classes will extend beyond March 30; the community will be updated as the situation evolves. Any community member who has internet connectivity issues should contact the IT department to find a solution. We have been in touch with our accrediting agencies and are confident that these changes will not run afoul of any standards and guidance.
Any online courses that are already being delivered will continue as normal.
Help for Community Members
If anyone in our community requires assistance, whether technical, illness, or are not able to access groceries or other necessities, contact Vice Dean McCormack, Associate Dean Jefferson, or email the firstname.lastname@example.org address.
All student and other events on campus will be cancelled until at least March 30. No decision has been made yet for events after March 30.
Beginning today and until further notice, the Cafe and Fitness Center will also be closed to students and the public. The Library will close on Monday. There will be no student or public access to the Library until at least March 30.
VLS discourages personal domestic and international travel by students, staff, or faculty, except for the purpose of returning home.
We recognize that these decisions raise questions and are ready to address any questions or concerns. A separate email address has been set up to handle questions related to the situation. Please send questions to email@example.com.
In the meantime, we will continue to keep the campus community informed as we have additional announcements. Please visit this page often to find guidance and links to reliable sources of information.
Your patience and cooperation are deeply appreciated as we respond to this extraordinary and dynamic situation.
March 9th, 2020
VLS continues to closely monitor the 2019 Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. A task force is meeting daily to discuss guidelines and implement recommendations made by government and public health agencies, including the State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At this time there are no suspected or known cases on the VLS campus, and there is one confirmed case in the State of Vermont.
Please find information below on how you can protect yourself and our community. We will continue to update this page as we have further information.
March 4th, 2020
VLS is closely monitoring the 2019 Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. A task force has been meeting to discuss guidelines and implement recommendations made by government and public health agencies, including the State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At this time, there are no suspected or known cases on our campus or in Vermont. Below is some information on how you can protect yourself and our community.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home if you are sick. Students should contact Dean McCormack or Dean Jefferson if you need an excused absence. Staff should contact their supervisors.
- Continue to check your VLS email at least daily for information.
- Complete the Voluntary Travel Registry (VLS students, check your email for the link).
More on Travel
Spring break begins next week, and we know that many in our community have plans to travel.
Please note that the virus has spread beyond China and South Korea and appears to be expanding rapidly across Europe from an epicenter in northern Italy. The situation is changing quickly, with new cases reported in the past few days in countries including but not limited to the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Brazil and France. Travel to affected areas, particularly China, South Korea, Iran, Italy and Japan is highly discouraged. Community members who decide to travel to areas at risk, or areas that become at risk, need to consider that:
- You may not be able to leave an area or you may be placed in quarantine by local health authorities in the country of travel.
- You may be placed in a mandatory quarantine upon return to the United States by local health authorities.
- You may not be able to return to the United States if your travel location develops into a high risk area.
- You may be told to self-quarantine either in the United States or in another country, should you travel in area that is considered or is later considered “at risk.”
To stay informed, please visit the CDC and World Health Organization websites, where you will find the most accurate and up-to-date information.
If you are Impacted
Travelers impacted by the coronavirus should contact Dean Jefferson, Dean McCormack, or their supervisor. While the risk of coronavirus remains low, we are prepared to respond, following all directions from the CDC, and we will continue to monitor the situation. We will provide further updates as needed.
Please also remember that Vermont Law School has a strict non-discrimination, non-harassment policy. Discrimination toward staff, students or guests based on fears or concerns will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Rather, we hope that everyone at VLS will reach out to anyone in need and move forward together as a community.
We will update this page as more information is received.