After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the University of Georgia’s campus in March and moved instruction online, student activity is back in Athens—even if business is decidedly not back to normal.
The beginning of fall classes (both in person and online instruction) is just a week away, which means students living off campus already have begun moving into town. Those who are staffing residence halls are back on campus. They will be joined by the rest of the students living in residence halls beginning Friday for move-in.
“I am excited to see students returning to UGA,” said Victor K. Wilson, vice president for student affairs. “It has been far too long since we have been together and shared the joy of all of the things that make UGA such a special place. For me, that list always starts with students.”
New measures on campus
While students are coming back to the same UGA campus with the same lush grass and iconic architecture, things are noticeably different, particularly inside buildings. Hand-sanitizing stations, directional arrows and, of course, face coverings are now ubiquitous.
Many faculty and staff remained on campus during remote instruction to keep essential services operational, and many more have returned during the past couple months as part of the first two phases of UGA’s Return to Campus Plan. As of Monday, nearly all UGA faculty and staff had staff reported back to campus, although some offices have implemented teleworking schedules where physical workspaces make it difficult to achieve social distance guidelines.
To reopen campus amid the ongoing pandemic, the University of Georgia has taken extraordinary steps to promote safety for students, faculty, staff and visitors.
- Before beginning classes, students must take an online COVID-19 training course aimed at preventing the spread of the disease. The course includes practical information, like proper handwashing techniques and how to wear face coverings and keep them clean, as well as instructions for what students must do if they present symptoms or test positive for the virus.
- The university launched a tool called DawgCheck that includes a checklist of COVID-19 symptoms to help faculty, staff, students and visitors self-monitor before coming on campus.
- The University System of Georgia and UGA are requiring all faculty, staff, students and visitors to wear face coverings while inside campus facilities where 6 feet of distancing may not always be possible.
- Faculty members and administrators have spent the summer getting ready for students to return to classrooms—both in buildings and online. Faculty and instructors may offer a hybrid classroom model that includes both in person and online instruction to maintain a safe distance between students.
- Classrooms will look different this fall, with seats marked to indicate safe distances for student seating. Some rooms are now equipped with new cameras and microphones to facilitate recordings during instruction time.
- The residence halls have added safety measures, as well. Community bathrooms, for example, will be disinfected three times daily instead of once, and housing is providing disinfectant wipes to residents with private or attached bathrooms. Some furniture has been removed from common areas to create more for social distancing, and vinyl stickers have been placed on floors to show the proper 6-foot distance. In addition, more than 1,100 hand sanitizing stations have been added at every entrance and in every elevator lobby, kitchen, laundry room and study lounge.
- The university has taken additional steps in dining and campus transportation.
In his welcome email message to students, Wilson emphasized the thoroughness of preparations and the importance of everyone’s vigilance. “I assure you that an amazing amount of work has been and will continue to be done to keep you as safe and healthy as possible. You play a critical role as well.”