Few of us think about global pandemics until we absolutely have to. Gary Goss is not among them.
As the College’s associate vice president of facilities operations, projects and services, he lives in a world of “what ifs.” Snow emergencies, fires, power outages, all are on his mind; even worldwide health emergencies. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the College to move to remote learning in March, Goss and his staff of around 80 maintenance workers, cleaners, project managers and trades people have prepared for the day students and Saint Rose employees would return. Though it will be up to each of us to stay safe, he said, the College has put the pieces in place. Goss urges patience and respect for one another as we keep ahead of the virus.
Here, he provides some detail on what students and employees can expect:
Outdoor seating: We’re creating pockets of space around campus to allow people to spend time outdoors. We’re putting chairs and tables in the Lally courtyard. You can just open the gate and use your Wi-Fi. We’re looking into more small picnic tables to limit the size of groups.
We’re also putting up tents. The biggest tent is on the lawn next to the Massry Center. We’re putting one up on the lot near the Huether School of Business, another next to Health Services (on Partridge Street.). We’re going to make the grassy area at Brubacher an external classroom for art students.
Limited access: Normally, all doors unlock in the morning. Now, doors on our buildings will stay locked and you cannot access buildings without a key card. I see people use their elbows to open doors or hit automatic door openers if they don’t want to touch the door knobs.
We’ll have a system in place to screen visitors if they arrive without an appointment. Soon, visitors without an appointment will see signs directing them to a staffed desk at Saint Joseph Hall where someone can assist them.
Appointments: Walk-in visits will largely go away. Undergraduate and graduate students will be using an app called Navigate, which allows them to set up virtual appointments with different departments and faculty. There’s a tent on the Campus Green through August 28 that will be staffed so the College can help students download Navigate if they’re having trouble and teach them how to schedule appointments if they need help.
Really small classes: I counted every classroom on campus. And we worked with the deans, registrar, and custodial team to spread students out. Every classroom will have 50% capacity seating or less. Professors have had to structure the in-person components of their courses differently.
Some tables are 6-feet long. We took out a chair to ensure students are seated 6 feet apart, or removed some tables. To give faculty distance, we have a table in front of them without a chair. The Mock Trial classroom, for example, has 40 chairs. Our pandemic capacity is 50% so there can only be 20 people there at a time. Also, IT has disabled every other computer in classrooms and other areas in order to maintain social distancing.
Masks, cleaning, and fresh air: The rule is that everyone on campus – indoors or outdoors – needs to wear a mask. The exceptions are residence hall rooms, offices occupied by one person, or while dining.
The College has purchased Saint Rose-branded cloth masks. Human Resources is working to get those out to employees through the department managers. Students can pick up masks under the big tent on the Campus Green. If a student comes into class without a mask, faculty members will direct the student to leave and come back with a mask. We’ve been deploying boxes of masks, so students won’t have to go far.
In some of our academic buildings the windows can’t open. To counter that, we are doubling or tripling the amount of outside air to 20% or 30% that is brought into the building HVAC systems. The facilities team will monitor the weather and make appropriate adjustments.
On a really hot, and humid day, if we bring too much humid air into the building, the HVAC system cannot remove the humidity from the air so it will feel stuffy inside. On the other end, if it’s cold out and we bring too much outdoor air into the system, we risk freezing and bursting the heating coils inside the rooftop units. It’s definitely a delicate balance, but we know the operational limitations of our equipment extremely well and are prepared to make those adjustments accordingly.
Classrooms will be cleaned daily. In addition to the regular cleaning, we’ll be sanitizing all high-touch points daily and then leave the room. It needs to sit for at least two minutes.
We are also providing supplies so people can wipe down their own areas before or after using them. Facilities will have a bucket of sanitizing wipes in every classroom students may choose to use.
Public spaces, a little quieter: You’ll have to wear a mask in the Camelot Room. And for dining spaces, including the Camelot Room and Main Dining Room (dining hall), current CDC guidelines indicate an occupancy reduction of 50%. We’ll reduce capacity to just under 50%.
Students will have the option to take food out of the dining hall in disposable containers to eat in their rooms or at the picnic tables on campus.
To limit contact with common surfaces, there will be no self-service in the dining hall. Items that were traditionally self-service, like the salad bar, will be provided in another way – either served by a food service employee or offered in a prepackaged form.
In the dining hall, staff will ask students to sit further apart and indicate proper spacing with stickers on the floor. They’ll direct people to go in one way and out the back for one-way traffic.
In the EAC, you’ll see directional arrows. In Starbucks, there will be zero seating. We don’t want anybody hanging around. The student lounge will still have seating, however, it will be spread out to coincide with social distancing recommendations.
In the library, there will only be access to the first floor, and it will be in two-hour increments, by appointment. Find details on the library website. We’ve removed access to stairways – downstairs and upstairs. If somebody needs a book on other floors, library staff will get it.
What keeps you up at night? The hardest thing that we’re working on right now is getting all of these supplies. It’s really hard. Sanitizing wipes are hard to come by, masks, hand sanitizer are also hard to get. The suppliers are scrambling.
On thinking of others: We’re following all of the protocols the CDC requires and being overly cautious. We’re also trying to set a good example.
Our facilities staff has been wonderful working together as a team. We want all the students and staff to be safe. We want to be safe, too, when we come to work every day.