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Q&A: What To Know About Bradley's Return To Campus

COVID-19 means the return to the Hilltop will look very different for Bradley University students this year.

Tim Shelley recently chatted with BU's Renee Charles about the new guidelines and how they'll work.

Tim Shelley: Just to start off, move in, you know, is tradition every year on the hilltop at Bradley, and it looks quite a bit different this year to the COVID. Let's just talk a little bit about for returning students or for new students, for people who are familiar with how it normally goes, with what's changing this year?

Renee Charles: Well, a lot is changing this year for moving. So, typically, we would have our students start moving in Friday morning, and they would just come in and drove well, because we're trying to focus on physical distancing, and trying to de-densify the area. We have required students to sign up for a time slot to arrive on campus to move in. So those time slots are broken down by building, so only a certain number of students are allowed to move in at a certain time.

We have also limited the number of people they can bring with them to help unload. They're only allowed three people besides themselves, to help them carry their items into their residence. Now, typically we would also have hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, from student groups to the Greek system to athletes, who would help move in all of the items that were brought with them. This year, we're not doing that. Students have to move their own items in. We will provide a handful of push carts to assist them that will be constantly cleaned as the day goes on.

Also, students are required, along with their guests who are helping to wear masks the entire time. Once they get into their room had unloaded all their items, then they can begin to unpack, but we're asking them to unload everything first. Then go into their rooms and unpack so that way we'll have less congestion in the hallways and in the stairwells.

TS: You mentioned masks. I know masks are a big thing this year. Bradley's requiring anybody to wear masks whenever they whenever social distancing isn't possible. In a setting like a classroom or a hallway. Can you just talk a little bit about how that'll work?

RC: Right. So in ach of our classrooms, we have gone through and measured space in the classroom. So there is six feet of distance in between each desk and or each seat. So if you think of a lecture hall, perhaps there are 200 seats. There are seats marks that are not to be used so that students do sit six feet apart. That way, they do not have to be close to each other.

Masks are required in all campus buildings, and especially in the hallway areas, because those will be more congested. But those areas the students are passing. They're not stopping and congregating, or at least they shouldn't be. And then we're also limiting some entrance, entry and exit points to one-way stairwells to one way, elevators, only a maximum of two people or three people based on the size. So we have signage posted on each room as to what the new COVID capacity is based on the distancing protocols.

We also have capacity limits for conference rooms for employees of how many people can be in there. So we have those posted all over we have the mask signs, reminding people to do follow the guidelines and follow all the expectations that we have.

TS: And how big of a factor is remote learning this year? I know that in March, when the pandemic really started to ramp up locally here, Bradley - like pretty much every other school K through 12 and higher education in the area went to remote learning. But it was important for you to come back to try to do some version of in person learning this year. There is still a remote learning option, correct?

Absolutely. So all of our students have been given the option to go 100% remote. The deadline has passed on that. But we have had probably around 600 students who have asked to go remote. Then we also had wanted to make sure that we gave the faculty that option, because they too have concerns about their health and safety. Perhaps they live with somebody who may be at risk or they're at risk. So we have given the faculty that option as well. So now we have gone through the courses that the faculty have requested to be online. And we have created the schedules. So we do have a percentage of our courses that will be offered remotely.

But over the summer, we invested in a lot of enhancements to ensure that that online element would be

be at the same level as face to face. Same with last fall, our faculty really worked hard to make sure that those delivery mechanisms were in line with the quality education that you would receive at Bradley. Over the summer, we've added even more. We've invested in new learning management tools. We've provided training for the faculty. We've enhanced our online access and capabilities. As I said, our instructors have had the summer training sessions where they've learned how to better develop their courses and make them even better than they were before.

TS: And I know Bradley has been in regular communication working with the Peoria City/County Health Department. I know one thing that they have approved for trying to kind of keep track of how conditions are on campus is surveillance testing, if that would be the correct term. If you could just talk a little bit about how that works?

RC: Right. So we are going to participate in surveillance testing. Starting Monday, as our students returned to campus. What we'll be doing is the nasal swab. And we are going to be choosing around 250 to 300 individuals randomly each week. And that will take place from the 24th of August, all the way through the end of the semester, which is at Thanksgiving.

While we're on campus, and we'll be providing no cost testing through our health services. We actually worked with our math department to help create the appropriate sampling size, so we could make sure we were getting a true representation.

TS: We know we've seen at other campuses, Illinois Wesleyan is the latest, for example, and we've seen, students get together off campus, they have parties - or they might have parties on campus. What's your messaging around that in terms of these get-togethers? How do you how do you stay safe while getting together? Or how does that work?

RC: So our headline right now is socially connected, but physically distanced.

So we've put together a series of expectations and guidelines for our employees and for our students, outlining what they are expected to do things like wearing your mask, on campus and off campus if you're going to be in an area where you're not able to physically distance, and we also have a lot of guidelines in there of what they are expected to do as far as their behaviors go off campus.

So we really are encouraging our students to hold each other accountable, talk to each other. If you're uncomfortable with an action that somebody is taking, let's talk about it, let's figure it out.

We also have a non compliance reporting ability. So if we do know that students or faculty and staff, if they're not complying with our expectations and our guidelines, then they could face disciplinary action. So we have outlined this to our students. And what we're really trying to do is ask them to hold each other accountable. Because we all want to be here this semester, and it's going to take each and every one of us working together to make it happen.

TS: So just before I let you go here, it's obviously going to be a very different semester in Fall 2020. Just anything else that people should know that we haven't yet touched upon?

RC: We are participating in contact tracing, as well. With our surveillance testing. We will be offering students on campus to be tested if they're showing or feeling some symptoms every day. Our students in public will receive a reminder to track their symptoms. They'll go through a process where they click buttons to say, Yes, I have this now, I don't have that. And it will tell them you're good to go or you should contact your doctor or you should contact health services.

We also have quarantine and isolation guidelines. We have space to set up on campus that if we do have to isolate and quarantine students, we have places for them. And we're working through this. We've done dozens of scenario planning that have taken five to eight hours each to walk through what if this, then what, so we feel like we are prepared for on campus face to face. We're prepared for hybrid learning.

And we also have preparations for if we have to pivot to online. If that were to happen, we will do it. We will make that decision. And we do have the plans in place to make sure that 100% remote learning is ready to go if and when we have to pivot to it.

TS: Thank you so much for your time today. I'm sure our listeners will find that very informative.

RC: I hope so. And our websites always up:bradley.edu/coronavirus. And the things we're doing are not just for our campus, but they're for the whole region. Because if we can keep our campus safe, that's our commitment to keeping the community safe.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WCBU will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WCBU can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Copyright 2021 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.

Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.