Westminster College announced in May it would be returning to in-person classes in the fall with some modifications to the academic calendar. However, on-campus life won’t look the same as it did pre-pandemic.
Fall semester was reorganized to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, omitting Fall Break and ending the semester a week early in December. It’s likely the last week of the term — which directly follows Thanksgiving break — will be held remotely.
Classes will also look different when students return to campus, with professors experimenting with a combination of face-to-face and technology-based instruction.
President Beth Dobkin said she is reluctant to call the changes a “new normal,” as it will feel like anything but normal.
Here are some of the changes to expect for the upcoming semester:
In the classroom
All classrooms will be set up for social distancing, maintaining a proper six-foot distance between students. For reference, that means:
- About one and a half skis
- One hammock length
- An average griffin’s wingspan
This may require some class sizes to be reduced. Provost Debbie Tahmassebi told students at ASW Virtual Town Hall that rearranging schedules because of reduced class sizes is the last thing the college wants — so students should reach out if they have concerns.
Masks will be required
Masks and face coverings will be required throughout campus for those who are “physically able to comply,” according to Westminster’s website.
Everyone on campus will be required to wear a face mask when they are in the following circumstances:
- When you can’t maintain a distance of six-feet between yourself and others
- When you are with peers
- When you are moving through indoor spaces
- When you are using an indoor study or hang out space
- When you are requested to use one in someone’s proximity
- When you are in the Shaw Student Center’s food service area
- When you are in a hallway or a campus building
The college rules that students don’t need to wear masks if they are alone in a room or office.
When outside, visitors only need to wear masks if they come within six feet of others — for example, when crossing the bridge near the Village Green.
Students must provide their own face masks. More details on wearing masks on campus can be found here.
A campus makeover
The college confirmed it’s in the process of removing and replacing items on campus that can’t be easily cleaned.
“When you come back in August, it will be like HGTV gave campus a makeover,” the college posted in an Instagram story. “We’re looking at you, Shaw.”
Last week, crews were seen in the Shaw Student Center removing the booths in the dining area — replacing them with purple benches.
The college said it would be cleaning more frequently and more thoroughly in these areas to slow the spread of the virus. All campus cleaning personnel were reportedly trained on CDC recommendations for schools and will be implementing these for Fall semester.
That means cleaning personnel will be disinfecting high-touch surfaces — like door handles, restrooms, etc. — throughout their shifts. They will also be conducting more thorough quality control checks to thoroughly clean and disinfect public and common areas across campus.
Changes in dining areas
Bon Appetit will continue providing take-out and dine-in options throughout the Fall semester. Patrons will be required to social distance and wear face masks while getting food and drinks from both Shaw and Griff’s Roost.
The college also emphasizes not making physical contact with others, especially in these areas, by utilizing contactless pay and avoiding shaking hands.
Major changes will be happening in residential halls for the Fall semester, as it’s typical for students to be in close proximity in these living situations.
Double occupancy rooms — which are typically found in Hogle Hall and Carleson Hall — will be reduced to single occupancy. There will also be increased cleaning and disinfecting of all common spaces.
A strict “No Guest Policy” will be enforced for all dorm buildings.
What to do if you’re feeling sick
If you’re feeling sick, Westminster strongly urges students not to come to campus. Stay home and avoid contact with others.
Health professionals recommend the following to remain healthy:
- Avoid contact with others who are sick
- Avoid touching your face, eyes or mouth with unwashed hands
- Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing
For further guidelines on what to when you’re feeling sick, read more here.
Before coming to campus, the college urges all students to check for symptoms such as:
- Cough or shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of smell or taste
The college advises students not to come to campus if they have experienced any of these symptoms within the last 14 days or if they’ve been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
“The college’s ability to create a safe and healthy campus will be a community effort,” the college wrote on its website. “Do your part to keep fellow Griffins healthy and safe. Everyone, including contractors and visitors, must follow Westminster guidelines when on campus.”