Bucknell students will have to provide two negative COVID-19 test results upon arrival this fall, no visitors will be permitted in residence halls and professors will offer a mix of in-person and remote classes as part of the university's plan to resume classes next month amid the ongoing pandemic.
Other safety measures include takeout meals, limited classroom sizes and routine cleanings across campus. The university released a broad return-to-campus plan Tuesday afternoon, one which university officials said is the result of months of work by teams of university personnel.
“Our ability to enjoy as rich of an in-person, residential experience as we can in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to depend on all of us,” President John Bravman said. “This is all about community, about caring for one another, and recognizing that shared sacrifice will be implicit in our success.”
According to a university release, comprehensive testing for students, faculty and staff will be key to keeping COVID-19 off campus. The protocols also include screening by student health personnel and contact tracing processes and procedures.
Bucknell partnered with TCA/Genetworx to deliver two free COVID test kits to each student — the first a saliva test and the second a nasal swab test — and when students arrive on campus to check-in, they will be required to show the medical staff their two negative tests through their Bucknell app.
Students who don’t already have a recent negative test for the virus will be tested upon arrival and isolated until they test negative. Students who test positive during the semester will be quarantined for two weeks at a local hotel, or given the option to return home.
“We plan to test students prior to arrival to know their status is negative coming onto campus. If we can aggressively test and mitigate the spread once they’re here, we’re going to manage this virus tremendously,” says Catherine O’Neil, medical director of Bucknell Student Health. “It takes practice to develop good health habits that can mitigate the spread of any disease. If we do it right, we have the ability to educate some 3,500 individuals to become socially responsible adults.”
Around 300 students chose to take classes remotely from home. Dean of Students Amy Badal hopes the mitigation efforts make students safer on campus than anywhere else.
“We’re excited about welcoming our students back to campus, and we’re doing everything possible to mitigate the risk to them,” Badal says. “The whole campus experience will look substantially different, but we are committed to providing the residential experience Bucknellians have grown to love.”
Students will only be permitted to live in single or double occupancy rooms now, and no visitors will be permitted in the residence halls this fall.
Classrooms will be disinfected daily during routine cleaning, but cleaning supplies will also be provided in classrooms, labs and conference rooms so occupants can clean desks and high-touch areas after use.
Dining services has transitioned to safer dining operations which include no buffet lines, takeout meals and limited seating occupancy in dining venues. Thirty octagonal dining tables will also provide additional outdoor seating when weather permits.
Many classrooms now have cameras and microphones to allow faculty to capture their lectures and discussions and post them online, providing students greater flexibility of access.
Most classrooms have had their capacity reduced by 50 percent to provide maximum social distancing. Some larger spaces that hadn’t typically been used for classrooms — including Trout Auditorium, Gardner Lecture Hall, the Weis Center and Larison dining room — may now accommodate larger classes of up to 35 students. Additional outdoor locations are also being explored.
According to Robert Midkiff, vice president for strategic initiatives, who has been coordinating with the faculty to mitigate their risk of infection, more than 100 faculty members will be teaching one or more sections remotely this fall. An additional 16 will teach using a “blended modality” of both in-person and remote instruction. Of the 822 courses with 1,564 sections being offered in the fall, approximately 15% will be offered remotely, with 2% being “blended.”