April 20, 2021

How to Create a Safe College Campus Mid-Covid-19

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Colleges and universities are working to bring students back to a somewhat “normal” campus experience for the Fall 2021 semester.

The ability to do this is important on many levels: Higher education institutions across the country are estimated to have lost close to $183 Billion dollars over the 2020 academic year, according to U.S. News.

On top of that, students reported higher levels of anxiety, inability to focus and turn in classwork on time while taking online classes, and the future impact on economies across the globe is yet to be seen.

It will take an effort by all involved to bring college campuses back to life and doing so will have to be done in a way that creates a safe and healthy environment, not only the college campus, but the surrounding communities.

Here are some tips on how to get started:

1) Set Up Clear Guidelines for Operation During COVID-19

A. Create a Clear Plan

Bringing students, faculty, and staff back to campus will take a lot of preparation. Administrators and campus officials have been advised to begin by updating their EOP, Emergency Operating Procedure/ Plan and make sure it includes revised strategies for operating during a pandemic, based on what has been learned about the spread of infection over the last year.

McKinsey suggests creating a Nerve Center—essentially, a group of decision makers that meet daily to assess what is happening on campus and in the larger community.

The Nerve Center is responsible for monitoring risks and measures associated with COVID-19 and working to contain and stop the spread; there are four parts to the nerve centers’ responsibilities that McKinsey outlines in further detail, but begin with:

Discover an accurate view of the total campus and community situation

Decide what to do quickly

Design a portfolio of actions for both short and long-term impact

Deliver plans and responses in a flexible, efficient manner (McKinsey)

Administrators and officials will have to work to mitigate risk and deem what is appropriate based on the size of the campus community as well as the surrounding community.

While not all colleges are planning for a full in-person return, many are, and being prepared to make moves back to hybrid or virtual learning will need to be part of the plan—even as vaccines continue to roll out.

B. Communicate Clear Protocols for Students, Faculty, and Staff

Beyond having a flexible plan, it will be necessary to roll out protocols, programs and procedures to students and staff ahead of the return to campus.

Communicating possible scenarios and how those situations will be addressed will only help keep all persons involved informed and prepared to make changes quickly, if necessary.

It will be important to designate areas for COVID testing, vaccine administration, and quarantine areas as well as clearly signed areas for limitations on numbers of people in certain buildings or rooms, as well as reminders about mask mandates.

In addition, it is essential to clearly communicate to students and faculty any expectations for in-person, virtual, or hybrid learning ahead of the semester start dates.

Ensuring students and faculty have a clear understanding of how to meet, when to meet, and for how long, will only help lower the risks involved.

2) Get College Students Involved

Part of the beauty of going off to college is the experience. Getting college students involved in the changes that will need to happen on campus is necessary.

According to U.S. News, college officials and health administrators across the country are optimistic that students will be back on campus in the fall, however they are hesitant to say exactly how to do so, sighting the challenges of large groups of students in communal living and studying quarters:

“...controlling those environments and limiting viral spread loom among the largest challenges in many schools' histories — and the notion of what constitutes normalcy is again being adjusted in real time.”

One way to address this is by getting students involved in making safety a top priority. Designing orientations for all levels of learners that explain the risk involved beyond just the campus community can result in greater awareness and understanding.

Beyond that, letting college students come up with ways in which they can make a difference and have a positive impact could help to drive home the seriousness of the issue, as well as work to develop a greater understanding of how following the guidelines impacts them individually—most students want to be on campus, learning in the classroom—helping them to understand that opportunity could be at risk may help them to act and make more responsible choices.

3) Keep Campus Cleaned for Health and Safety

The campus operating plan will largely impact the maintenance and facilities department and a comprehensive and detailed guide should be presented to the essential workers on this team months ahead of when students will return to campus.

Making sure your team is clear on best practices for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, in addition to having access to all essential supplies and as well as a clear understanding how to use them, will be vital to supporting the campus plan and keeping the campus community healthy.

You can support them through consistent training as well as providing equipment that helps them to be more efficient.

A. Intelligent Commerical Floor Cleaners

For example, ICE Cobotics has a full line of Intelligent Cleaning Equipment—scrubbers and sweepers that work through a cloud-based fleet management system called i-Synergy.

With i-Synergy, those who oversee the campus cleaning plan can monitor the use of each machine on campus.

This allows end-users access to machine usage insights such as machine location, start and stop times, total square footage cleaned, and they can be alerted to any machine notifications due to maintenance or service issues.

With this information, users can monitor the work being done, check in with team members in each building on campus, and work together to discuss more efficient and productive cleaning plans and patterns.

Beyond that, end-users can speak to confirmed clean. The data that is collected through easy-to-read reports can be emailed to management—ensuring the job is complete.

This information can be shared with college administrators and officials that will surely want more frequent updates on the state of campus cleaning.

Plus, ICE Cobotics commercial floor cleaning machines are powered by lithium-ion batteries--which help to eliminate mess and hazardous situations for cleaning staff (when compared to machines that use traditional lead-acid batteries), and due to advanced technology, can be opportunity charged and run longer, resulting in much less downtime.

B. Autonomous Solutions

Autonomous cleaning equipment can be a great way to help staff keep campus clean.

Autonomous solutions can be used to augment the increasing workload that university maintenance and facilities staff face.

Due to the sheer numbers of people that visit campus buildings each day, the amount of cleaning, sanitizing and, disinfecting of high-touch areas has increased.

This means cleaning staff will have to make the rounds more often and refill supplies across campus more often, too.

Autonomous solutions can help staff to stay efficient and productive because while staff is focused on more detailed work, cobots can be deployed to clean floors on their own.

Beyond that, most cobots has a built-in timer system and can be set work when cleaning staff is gone—helping to get even more of the floor vacuuming done each day.

And, if you want to learn more about how to do all of this and stay within in budget, we suggest: 3 Ways to Stay Within Budget and Keep Your College Campus Clean

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