On Friday, June 12th the Temple University Return Team posted a video to update the Temple community on their plans for the fall 2020 semester. The video was posted to YouTube and can be accessed via TUportal and through this link. It outlines how the Return Team will plan to make decisions for the start of the fall semester. The video is narrated by Sarah Powell, the director of emergency management, and Mark Denys, the senior director of student and employee health services.
Powell starts by stating the 3 goals that the Return Team is trying to reach through their process; “Safeguard lives, Safeguard the institution, and Provide Quality education.” She goes on to say, “Everything that we do is going to be by the public health situation at the time as well as government guidelines and mandates.” She adds that the school will work in accordance with Governor Tom Wolf’s reopening phases.
Temple will be implementing “Four Pillars” aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 on campus. These pillars are “facial coverings, social distancing, hand hygiene, and health monitoring.” Denys highlights some of the plans the school will take to make buildings safer for students, including: “putting hand sanitizers in all building lobbies and different floors of different buildings.” Buildings will also have sneeze guards at front desks and other areas, along with floor decals with social distancing information. He also states that the school will be implementing touchless water fountains, and “ramped up disinfecting” for buildings.
Testing will play a large role in how well the school is able to maintain the spread, according to Denys. He says “we really feel like we’ll be able to do a robust amount of testing,” and for the students who do catch the virus “we’re going to be developing our own internal contact tracing unit at Temple.” That won’t be the only form of protection from sick students as he also mentions “a number of rooms set aside in housing so that we can isolate any students from the residence halls that become sick.” The school also plans on having an on-campus testing facility.
On the subject of student life, the video states that Johnson and Hardwick Residence Halls, the only communal living style halls, will be converted into single-room housing. This decision was made after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the lowering of communal bathroom use. Denys says that there will be specific single rooms for the vulnerable population of students. Food from dining halls will be served via a “Dine and Go” style.
Considering housing selection has been open since April, the problem with students who have already booked these rooms is an obvious concern. Denys says that they are “working through that process throughout the summer to make sure that everybody has the appropriate housing that they need.”
Classroom seating is another concern for students who have already selected their fall schedule. Powell says there will be social distancing implemented in classes, meaning that students will be required to sit at least 6 feet apart from one another. She suggests a combination of online learning and physical classroom time and says “a classroom for 90 people may only fit 15 people” and “a classroom for 40 would be used for less than 10.” University staff is planning to rely heavily on instruction through Canvas and Zoom, according to Powell.
The Return Team will also use a scenario-based planning framework, in which the school enters one of 4 scenarios that relate to on-campus aspects. She says that Temple is likely headed in an “essentials only phase” which would mean that there would be restrictions but “We may at least be able to have the in-person classes that have to be conducted in person.” These would include “laboratory science, studio art, theater, and music” classes. In terms of the daily schedules, the team is still unsure about a definite plan of action for those.
In the release posted via TUportal, the protocol for attendance in fall is detailed. The school is making it mandatory that staff takes attendance for all in-person classes. The goal of this is to facilitate the process of contact tracing in the event that a classmate contracts COVID-19.
A release from the Infectious/Communicable Disease Task Force details the disinfecting protocol that school faculty will use for Main Campus, Ambler Campus, Center City Campus, and Dental School buildings, as well as any building in “where Temple is either the landlord or tenant.” Classrooms and other common areas will be cleaned daily to ensure the safety of students. At least once a day, high touch areas in classrooms will be disinfected by staff. High traffic areas such as lounges and restrooms will be cleaned and disinfected by staff daily. Every week, classrooms will be disinfected with an electrostatic sprayer and fogger designed to cover large areas. Residential Halls will be sprayed by electrostatic spray twice daily in common areas including lobbies, bathrooms, and lounges. The report also explains the measures taken to clean labs, offices, and clinics. The full report can be found under the Return to Campus tab on TUportal.
Temple will start a 5-phase plan with dates for the preparation of students’ return. Phase 3 will start on June 23rd with the beginning of the Summer II session. The goal of this phase is to test how the school will implement various options including small population of classes and minimal in-person classes. Phase 4 will begin on August 1st with the expectation of students returning to off-campus housing and the opening of an on-campus testing facility. Phase 5 is when the fall semester begins on August 24th, guided and permitted by local and state ordinances.
As many big questions still remain unanswered, the Return Team has stated this is an ongoing issue with aspects of the return timeline changing based on public health information and government orders.