Colleges balance dorm living with pandemic precautions to keep students on campus for fall semester

Local News

FORT WAYNE and ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) — Colleges look to changing dorm life to keep students on campus throughout the first semester back since the start of the pandemic.

The University of St. Francis and Trine University offer traditional dorm rooms as well as non-traditional style suite and apartment living accommodations. At St. Francis, dorms can have anywhere from one to three students living out of one room at a time. Dorm living often makes for tight living quarters, especially when restrooms and kitchens are shared amongst the community, so the school has limited rooms to house no more than two students sleeping in the same room.

“We’ve had to set some new understandings of what it looks like in common spaces in the residence halls where social distancing isn’t an option or they’re not in their private space,” said Katie Dwyer, Associate Dean of Students for St. Francis. “

St. Francis and Trine are tackling the issue of COVID-19 safety in very similar ways. Both schools are requiring students to wear masks whenever they are not in their own personal living quarters. Masks are required everywhere else in the building, even if they are in another person’s dorm room. The schools have also increased the frequency of cleaning communal areas such as the restrooms and lounge areas. Students are also asked not to bring guests into the building.

If a dorm resident at St. Francis tests positive for COVID-19, they are to alert Student Affairs. They will then be moved to an isolation dorm for a minimum period of ten days. After those ten days, students will be able to leave once they have gone 24 hours with no symptoms or a fever. Dwyer said that per CDC and Indiana State Dept. of Health guidelines, roommates or anyone else who may have been exposed to the virus through the student who tested positive will have to quarantine.

Students who find themselves in that position will have food delivered to them as well as a person designated to clean their space and take their trash out. St. Francis will also make regular contact with the student to make sure they are handling the isolation in a mental capacity. Both schools also spent time training their Resident Assistants before the semester began.

“Prior to students arriving on campus, they received some training that helped identify symptoms, also provided protocol as well as a phone they can come in contact with someone who might be on call and be able to provide guidance if they have someone who is not feeling well or is ill,” said Cisco Ortiz, Dean of Students for Trine.

Purdue Fort Wayne Director for Housing and Residential Information Jordyn Hogan said that PFW is lucky to have the apartment-style dorms they have because it makes it easier for them to social distance inside their dorms. Students are required to wear masks when in their common living spaces but most students are able to have their own bedroom and share a bathroom with only one other person. Students are not allowed to have guests from outside the buildings in their dorms for at least the first two weeks of school and are not allowed to have overnight guests for the entirety of the fall semester but, according to Hogan, PFW’s students are willing to follow those guidelines if it means they get to stay on campus.

“They just really want to be here,” said Hogan. “They’re really compliant with everything we’ve asked them to do.”

Purdue Fort Wayne plans to handle students who test positive for the virus on a case-by-case basis. They have set aside quarantine rooms, all with their own bedroom and bathroom, in the event that one resident or all of their roommates need to quarantine. Their convenience store called The Pantry, located in Walb Student Union, will help deliver food to those students while they are quarantined. They also have staff who will stay in contact and make sure students feel supported in their classes during that time.

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