The University of Kansas Student Housing is making plans to have students back on campus in the fall, with a mixture of action from KU and individual student accountability to combat the coronavirus.
Student housing and dining facilities are expected to be open in the fall, with changes to promote social distancing and other safety measures, Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer announced Monday in a statement to staff, faculty and students. Most facilities will operate near their normal capacity.
As there is no longer a stay-at-home order in Kansas, KU is hoping students will continue practicing social distancing leading up to, and through, the time they return to campus.
Housing Director Sarah Waters said that although the custodial staff will potentially increase the frequency of cleaning, there is no way to ensure everything in residential halls is cleaned before each use.
“We know that high-touch surfaces are going to need to be wiped down more often,” Waters said. “We’re honestly probably going to ask our residents to help us out.”
In common spaces such as laundry rooms, extra cleaning supplies will be provided for students to have access to before using the machines, Waters said. The thought is that although these spaces will be cleaned, this puts more emphasis on students taking precautions on their own to keep themselves and their peers safe.
Cat Simmons, a junior from Olathe who will be living in the Jayhawker Towers this fall, said that while extra cleaning would be appreciated, communication from student housing would make her feel safer.
After Thanksgiving, there will be a study week, followed by a week of exams, conducted remotely, University of Kansas leadership announced in an email to students, staff and faculty.
“I trust that they’re going to figure something out, I just wish that they’d figure it out quicker,” Simmons said. “I wish that they would communicate with us more.”
With many residents living in buildings that have community bathrooms, KU is considering reducing capacity to promote safety. Roommate requests will be honored, on the basis that there is a respect for the people they are living with.
“You need to consider your room inside of your apartment, suite or two-person room, to be like your home or family unit,” Waters said. “You have to build trust with the people you’re living with and be okay with their behaviors.”
There will be a decrease in residents, according to Waters. She projected about 4,500 students will be living on campus. In a typical year, around 4,900 residents live on campus in student housing, she said. Chancellor Douglas Girod previously said KU as a whole is anticipating an enrollment drop of up to 10%.
Housing is also looking to push the cancellation date for contracts to a date in July, without a cancellation penalty. The original contract stated that cancellations after June 1 would be charged.
“We’re shifting our contract cancellation schedule a little right now so students know what to expect, what they have to agree to," Waters said. "And if they don’t want to agree to it, they have an option to not be held to a contract."
University of Kansas international students are grappling with how to safely return to campus during the coronavirus pandemic.
The move-in process for residents will also look different than it has in past years. There will be a schedule so smaller groups can move in over a period of days to alleviate some of the back up that tends to happen as residents move into their buildings.
“We looked at, of this year's class, how many might live in about a 90-minute radius of Lawrence,” Waters said. “We’re looking at considerations to maybe get those students in to come back way early in August so they could come down at a scheduled time, get their room ready, and then leave.”
After looking at numbers, almost 60% of this year’s class lives in that 90-minute radius, she said. This process makes it easier for out of state residents to find the time to safely move into their building.
Waters advised that if students have the ability, they should purchase hand sanitizer or other cleaning supplies to have in their rooms to protect themselves and those around them.
“In terms of preparing, I think a student should know we're optimistic that we can do this if we do it together,” Waters said. “We’re hopeful that we are going to be here, and you’re going to be able to stay in your space.”