Northland university and college leaders discuss plans to keep campus safe

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: August 31, 2020 07:43 PM

Colleges and universities in the Northland have spent the summer working tirelessly on measures to protect everyone on campus from the coronavirus by implementing new health and safety measures.

A new school year means some new changes for Northland college students. Students won't be in packed classrooms, the new wardrobe addition will be a face mask and there will be hand sanitizer everywhere on campus. This is the new reality of being a college student during a health pandemic. 

“As you walk into our campus you'll see noticeable differences. We want our students to feel safe when they come on the campus," said Chris Stevens, the UMD facilities management.

Northland college and university leaders said they are ready to provide a safe and healthy educational experience during COVID-19. They have received advice from local health officials and from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The University of Minnesota in Duluth is delaying the start to in-person classes by two weeks and is offering online options in the meantime. Most universities in the Northland are using a mix of remote, in-person and hybrid approach. Staff are aware outbreaks may happen and will have ongoing testing available.

"Our students are able to get testing on campus through our heath services department and we've provided them with resources on what they would do. We're prepared to help our on campus residents with isolation and quarantine if needed so we've worked over a variety of different scenarios," said Lynne Williams, the UMD director of public relations.

Stevens said he has 86 custodial staff who will have the task of doing enhanced cleaning of more than 3 million square feet on campus. 

The College of St. Scholastica (CSS) is socially distancing students in classrooms and installed over 400 hand sanitizer stations on campus. There's also disinfectant spray and paper towels in every class so students can clean their area.

“We've developed a pledge to try and get our students, our staff, our faculty and all employees to commit to practicing healthy behaviors to make sure that we can continue advancing our educational programs throughout the semester," said Ryan Sandefer, the vice president of academic affairs for CSS.

Sandefer added that faculty have been working all summer to develop courses to meet the "new reality" of teaching like developing online components of their courses to meet programmatic needs.

"They've also been working hard to modify curriculum to make sure that it's the best experience for students. We've learned a lot since we had to rush into a remote semester in the spring. We've rolled out about 100 different professional development opportunities for faculty over the summertime, said Sandefer.

The University of Wisconsin in Superior installed plexiglass partitions and directional signage to control traffic flow throughout campus. They've also upgraded the campus wifi in a new way.

"We are utilizing more wifi abilities for outdoors so we can utilize the outdoor wifi as much as possible to help with the social distancing while the weather is nice and also helping in parking lots with wifi so a lot of stuff can be done prior to even coming into the buildings," said Mark Graves, the UWS facility superintendent.

Lecture halls that would usually seat about 190 students at UWS are being socially distanced and will only seat about 30 students now. They are also using new cleaning technologies like electrostatic cleaning and keeping a close eye on the air system.

"We're utilizing MERV 13 filters basically MERV 13 filters are comparable to what clinics and hospitals would use. We're watching our air pressures to ensure that we're adequately changing air exchange rates appropriately," said Graves.

Lake Superior College (LSC) is offering virtual meetings for student services. They're also requiring students and staff to complete a COVID-19 self-assessment screening before entering classes.

“We're going above and beyond what we have to do and you see that as you walk through the campus how seriously we're taking this," said Daniel Fanning, the vice president of external relations at LSC.

LSC is aware some programs like aviation and manufacturing are difficult to do online so they are having students on campus complete their needed training and requirements early.

"To the extent that we can we're going to do as much as the required on campus stuff earlier in the semester with some flexibility so worst case scenario if numbers continue to spike and for whatever reason we get forced to go back online at least we'll have the flexibility to do that and are prepared for that," said Fanning.

College and university leaders said it will take team work and cooperation from everyone to keep campuses safe.

To learn more about UMD's campus protocols, click here.

To learn more about CSS's new campus protocols, click here.

To learn more about UWS's new campus protocols, click here.

To learn more about LSC's new campus protocols, click here

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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