Recovery town halls outline fall plan, stress flexibility

Serena Bettis

Continuing with the recent series of virtual town halls, Colorado State University hosted two Zoom meetings Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the University’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

University President Joyce McConnell, along with members of the Pandemic Preparedness Team, detailed the developing plan for returning to campus in the fall semester and answered community questions for 50 minutes both days. 

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“Even though we have a plan, we have to be prepared to be able to respond to changes, and … therefore, it is in constant state of evaluation and improvement and responsiveness to the current situation,” McConnell said. 

The fall 2020 plan centers on returning students to campus and allowing for in-person work and instruction to safely resume. McConnell said the plan is largely based on the reopening guidelines created by the state of Colorado and the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. 

Any changes in the Larimer County guidelines could result in changes to CSU’s fall 2020 plan. 

General campus guidelines

Across campus, students and employees will be required to submit a daily COVID-19 symptom survey, wear face masks and maintain six feet of distance from others at all times, McConnell said. All University spaces will be disinfected daily by Facilities Management. 

CSU has two specific apps — one for students and one for employees — for completion of the daily symptom surveys. 

Public Health Administrator Jeannine Reiss said the symptom checking app for students will go live Aug. 1, and the public health team on campus will be constantly monitoring all data sent in so they can immediately contact people who may have COVID-19. 

“(It) is really important that we do these because it helps to prevent or assess symptoms, prevent some outbreaks or alert others that they were potentially exposed,” Reiss said.

The University is also starting a Social-Norming campaign in August to instruct students to practice preventive health behaviors to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

“We’ll remind them of their responsibility for their own health, the health of others and the greater good and encourage them to embrace these behaviors as the new normal on campus,” McConnell said. 

If the guidelines outlined by the state and county health departments and the University are not adhered to, McConnell said it will be considered a violation of University policy and the University will use the student conduct review process or enact employment consequences to enforce the guidelines. 

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Safety in classrooms

As McConnell has said many times in her emails to students this summer, the majority of CSU fall classes will be face-to-face or hybrid between in-person and online instruction.

“What we discovered both from students and family and many of our faculty is that the preference for in-person teaching is very strong and is very important to our critical mission of providing the very best education that we can,” McConnell said. “However, we know that we have to do this with great care.”

To keep students safe, six feet of distance will be required between every person in a classroom, and face coverings will be required at all times. McConnell said there will be 12 feet of distance between instructors and the first row of students. 

(It) is really important that we do (symptom checks) because it helps to prevent or assess symptoms, prevent some outbreaks or alert others that they were potentially exposed.” -Jeannine Reiss, Public Health Administrator

Additionally, McConnell said instructors will be provided with plexiglass face shields they can use instead of a cloth face mask to help students with hearing difficulties or those who need to read lips.   

“What we’ve discovered is that the (standing) plexiglass shield is actually not as protective as the face shield, because the plexiglass shield cannot move with the instructor,” McConnell said. “So by having a face shield the instructor is protected, and the students are better protected.” 

Buildings cannot exceed 50% occupancy, and the University has opened up non-typical classroom spaces, such as the Lory Student Center ballrooms and research field houses, and created additional classroom sections to accommodate for this. 

McConnell also said buildings will have doors specific for entry or exit to minimize crowding, and the number of classrooms equipped with technology to allow for hybrid and online learning has doubled. 

Executive Vice President and Provost Rick Miranda said there are many modes of hybrid classes students may have, which can be seen on RAMweb. The complete logistics of which day of the week a student will have their class in-person and which day it will be online has not been worked out yet but will be available closer to the start of the semester. 

An outline shown during the COVID Recovery Town Hall of the University’s Social-Norming campaign starting in August. (Serena Bettis | The Collegian)

Individual health and safety

The University is asking students to come to campus with a “care kit” that includes a thermometer to monitor for a fever, at least two reusable, washable cloth face masks, hand sanitizer or wipes, basic cold and flu medications, a 30-day supply of non-COVID related prescription medications that students take and their health insurance information. The University will provide these items for those who cannot afford or procure them. 

“Many of our decisions are influenced by equity considerations and so we want to make sure that everyone understands that for students and employees who cannot afford or procure for some reason thermometers or face masks or face coverings, they will be made available,” McConnell said.

Implemented in August, the University will also have a COVID-19 testing plan that will span several weeks and shift to adaptive, ongoing testing after. 

McConnell said the University is not requiring students to be tested before coming to campus but did suggest students self-quarantine as much as possible in the two weeks leading up to their return to campus. 

“What we have understood thus far is that, because testing is just a snapshot of that moment (and) of that student’s negative or positive status, we are actually better off having students come to campus, testing them when they arrive and making sure that we are able to intervene and give them the best support if they are positive or if they have been exposed (to) someone who is positive,” McConnell said. 

Students living in University housing who test positive will coordinate with Housing & Dining Services to arrange for appropriate housing for the student who needs to isolate. 

The fall 2020 recovery website has a master list of links and FAQs for specific University departments and their reopening plans. 

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.