Are We Ready?

Wednesday July 15, 2020

Some, maybe most of the campus staff have returned to campus (I Think) but the peace and silence still haven’t been broken. There is something about a campus at rest. It’s the best part of the school yarThe lawns are cl3an, manicured, and wet from this morning’s hard rain. Indoors, chairs and tables are being removed from the cafeteria and classrooms,and,it is rumored, some offices as well, to create enough room for social distancing. Only two people per table in the cafeteria and they have to sit on opposite sides of the table. Large trash bags are being used to cover the tops of chairs in the auditorium and the tired style classrooms in the business school, science center, humanities building.

Masks are mandatory inside, now, and violators are already being reported by a variety of people. Almost everyone is one edge, a little, me included, but trying to act like it’s another day on the job, although someone of them haven’t been on campus in about three months. They’ve been working from home, safe, secluded, protected, at very little risk. They could have come to work, however. The campus has been virtually empty since the statewide shutdown went into effect. They probably encountered more people at the grocery store than they would have encountered on the campus.

But, they are back and tentative about social interactions, at any distance. Virtual high fives. Visual hugs.

We are doing everything we can to get ready for The Return of The Students August 15, the first day of move-in, which has been stretched out for over a week, instead of the usual three days, to make sure not too many people are on campus all at once, or in the dorms, though what they will do once they are all in the dorms is anyone’s guess. We are expecting full enrollment. With coronavirus cases climbing. We’ll see.

We are contracting a cleaning company exclusively for the dormes, to work twelve hours days, seven days a week, cleaning, disinfecting, steaming. We know the students aren’t going to follow the guidelines. We know they aren’t going to practice social distancing. They aren’t going to wear face masks around each other. They are young. They are going to live, forever, unless someone they know has been infected. So, we have set aside a space – a floor of one of the dorms, I was told – to quarantine students who are infected, instead of sending them home.

Hand sanitizing stations at every entrance in every building. There’s talk of moving back to touch-free towel and soap dispensers. We had them once, after the SARS and H1N1 scares, but we took them all out to make room for Staples products when they became our new vendors. And, because they were expensive, the batteries. We don’t use Staples, anymore. We have a new company, new foam hand sanitizer, too.

The university hasn’t generated revenue since March. And, we haven’t fired downsized the staff or faculty. I have only heard of one person who has been asked to take a pay cut. Our salaries come directly from tuition. We can’t use donations to pay salaries; it’s illegal. We need to keep the students on campus, in class and paying room and board for the entire semester. If they leave…if we have to shut the campus down before November…

The campus looks great. There has been enough rain to make the grass and leaves shine. Some people a riring to get back to school. To get back to hands-on education, to pick up where they left off, as if nothing happened, at all.

Signs are posted all over the place. 6 feet social distancing. Wear a mask indoors at all times. Violators will get some undefined punishment. Wash your hands often. Use hand sanitizer. And, the unspoken message: report anyone who breaks the rules.

We have done everything we can think to do, everything we can afford to do. But… 

Are we ready?

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