The COVID-19 pandemic may have altered the look of Defiance College campus but not the underlying spirit, according to President Richanne Mankey.
Prior to students returning, Defiance College put in place a number changes to help the campus remain healthy this fall. At this time, these measures are only put in place for the fall semester, and will be extended to spring semester if necessary. The college has remained in contact with the Defiance County Health Department, as well as the Ohio Department of Education, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mankey said the goal is to maintain compliance with all local, state, and federal health mandates.
“As an educational institution, we are continually guiding the Defiance College community about the importance of abiding by and modeling the safety protocols suggested by leading health experts,” Mankey said. “Parents who were on-campus this week to move in their students saw our plans at work and told us how they gained confidence in our systems to put people and safety first. We know that our ability to succeed lies within the college community’s willingness to use and layer the most recent health and safety guidelines.”
COVID-19 preparedness and response has been handled by the college’s Incident Command (IC) team, comprised of representatives from across the college community who have met continuously since March. All policies, procedures, and changes are brought before the IC team.
Among other regulations, the team approved the following:
• All students were required to submit a negative COVID-19 test before arriving on campus, and are encouraged to self-isolate.
• Should a Defiance College student test positive for COVID-19, the student will be asked to self-isolate, contact tracing is conducted, and preparations made to ensure the individual can still participate – remotely in classes. Residential students in isolation will have meals delivered to their rooms.
The procedure is identical for faculty and staff, except they are asked to remain at home and, if their health allows, continue to work remotely.
• Everyone on campus is required to wear a mask while around others. This includes in classes, offices, and residence halls. Students are not required to wear a mask while in their rooms.
• Faculty, staff, and students are required to conduct daily health checks before arriving on campus. Residential students need to do so before leaving their rooms.
• The IC team will encourage the college community to layer preventative measures by using the word “and” instead of “or”; wearing a mask over both their mouths and noses; physically distancing; washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and using hand sanitizer; and disinfecting work spaces before and after use.
“Layering” means using the measures at the same time rather than only one at a time.
• Faculty have created an alternative teaching schedule to reduce contact. Classes with fewer than 10 students meet face-to-face one day and virtually, at the same scheduled time, another day. Classes with more than 10 students are divided into two groups, both of which meet face-to-face and virtually but not at the same time. All classrooms have been rearranged to increase physical distancing. While in the classroom, professors will wear face masks or face shields and students will wear face masks.
“It has been exciting to see Defiance College come together and evolve in order to keep the campus as healthy as possible,” said Dr. Agnes Caldwell, vice president for academic affairs. “One major change to the academic routine is that rooms will be sanitized before and after each session. Faculty have been willing to be flexible and have continued to move quickly to adjust to the academic uncertainties.”
All campus areas have been reconfigured to increase physical distancing. Computer labs have every other computer station closed, the dining hall seating has been reduced and an overflow area created, and the Pilgrim Library study areas are at a reduced capacity.
As of Aug. 20, the college’s athletic conference, with guidance from the NCAA Board of Governors, has postponed all high-contact sports until spring of 2021. This includes football, soccer, and volleyball. The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference is also requiring student athletes be tested frequently for COVID-19.
For up-to-date information on the changes to Defiance College’s athletic schedules visit www.defianceathletics.com.
Mankey said all COVID-19-related decisions for the college are thoroughly considered, with the best decision chosen. Sometimes, the top decision must be altered within hours or days in order to follow best practices.
For updated information on Defiance College’s response to COVID-19 visit www.defiance.edu/covid19fall.