Universities have been hard at work over the last several months planning for the hopeful return of students for the fall semester. The focus of this planning has been spread around several key areas:
- How many people can you have in your space while maintaining safe physical distancing?
- How do you manage reconfigured floor plans and a phased approach to campus re-entry?
- How do you deliver and maintain a safe working/learning environment?
- How do you respond if there is a staff/faculty/student incident or outbreak?
- How do you plan for the future with so many unknowns?
Social Distance Planning On Campus
As students begin to return to university and college campuses in the coming weeks, all of the planning and preparation that higher education facilities teams have been working on will be put to the test. The recent rise in cases in several states and the ongoing conversation about what to do with all schools (K-12 and higher ed) has added to the anxiety of students, parents, faculty and staff. No one is quite sure what to expect.
Of course, the ultimate goal of all of this planning is to enable your campus to support social distancing so that your students, staff and faculty can remain at a safe physical distance and the university can continue to deliver on its mission. Given the complexity of college campuses and the variety of spaces – safe physical distancing will continue to be a real challenge. The majority of universities are opening with reduced capacities and a significant percentage of students will be taking their classes online.
How to Be Prepared for Possible Contamination
The largest concern at the moment is that as soon as students return, the cases will spike dramatically. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but it’s fair to assume there will be an increase. All of the planning that has occurred over the last several months should mitigate some of the cases, but it won’t eliminate them. It’s not a matter of if there will be a COVID case on campus, but when.
With that reality, we return back to the last major focus area: How do you plan for the future with so many unknowns. Whatever our plans are today, they will look different very soon. The universities that will be able to best control the spread of the virus across campus in the fall will be the ones who are able to:
- React quickly to contamination – having ways to automatically notify custodial staff when an incident has occurred so the space can be cleaned before others come into contact with that area
- Limit congestion across campus – relying on real-time data to be alerted when too many people enter a particular area
- Conduct contact tracing – through data and analytics, being able to determine where a contaminated individual has been
- Plan efficiently and effectively for the unknown – having back-up plans ready and having tools that enable you to plan for a variety of situations you may encounter during the fall semester
Knowing that the stakes are so high, universities have to be able to rely on quality data to make the most informed decisions possible during this time. Be prepared as students return to campus – schedule a meeting with us today to learn how.
To learn more about how colleges and universities can effectively plan and manage a safe and efficient return to campus while planning for the flexibility required with the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic watch our recent webcast here.
Key takeaways from this webcast include:
- Considerations for facilities management leaders creating campus return plans that accomplish the right balance between safety and efficient utilization
- Highlighted areas needing modification to ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines as well as safeguarding both student and employee health
- How to prevent future outbreaks by incorporating policies and procedures to maintain a safe and healthy environment for your employees and students