Illinois Wesleyan University plans to house up to 140 students in hotels this fall to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus.
The university is offering a mix of in-person and online instruction this fall. Students who return to campus can room with someone, or have their own room for better social distancing. That limits the number of available beds to about 1,000.
Karla Carney-Hall, IWU vice president of student affairs and dean of students, chairs the university's fall contingency planning review committee. She said while students are still making decisions about the fall semester, she expects up to 80 students will choose an all-virtual option.
She said the university will randomly select up to 140 students to live in a hotel while factoring in the amount of time each student needs to be on campus.
“We really tried to be as thoughtful as we could be about how to place folks and also just recognizing there’s no easy decision-making there,” said Carney-Hall.
The university isn't ready to announce the hotels yet. Negotiations are ongoing with two of them.
Carney-Hall said students have access to Connect Transit to bus to and from IWU, and plans are for a shuttle to run to campus during peak times. Using Connect Transit is paid for by student fees. The students' housing fees will remain the same, she said.
Students also will be tested for COVID-19 when they arrive on campus.
“We really felt that with the information on the asymptomatic spreaders, that we wanted to make sure that we caught things early,” Carney-Hall said.
The university is in negotiations with a health care providers to bring testing to campus for six days. She said students who aren’t on campus at that time would have to go to the community-based testing clinic at the Interstate Center in Bloomington to get tested.
Carney-Hall added a key part of the university's contingency response is quickly identifying and isolating COVID cases.
“We would try to isolate the area of concern so if it’s a class, if it’s particular courses, if it’s a residence hall floor, that we would work to isolate the concern,” she said.
The fall semester starts Aug. 17, a week earlier than usual while the schedule is condensed so students won't have to come back after Thanksgiving, thereby limiting the potential spread of infection.
Carney-Hall said everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask.
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