UND’s Smart Restart: Safety and Facilities

In building a COVID-resistant campus, UND is striving to reduce risk while fostering a high quality of campus life

The UND Coronavirus blog is a one-stop information source on UND’s response to the coroanavirus. Updated regularly, it contains information on safety levels, precautions, and much more.

Faculty, students and staff will be welcomed back in August to a campus that looks different.

What won’t change is UND’s commitment to students.

Though the coronavirus pandemic may change how classes meet and offices work, UND will still be a community that focuses on learning and discovery, said Jed Shivers, vice president for finance & operations.

Jed Shivers

“We are committed to on-campus education,” Shivers said. “We’ve been spending time trying to ensure the campus is as COVID-resistant as possible.”

It’s taken a lot of planning.

Shivers said that although the risk of contracting coronavirus will not be eliminated, the plan is to reduce the possibility of transmitting the virus as much as possible.

“This is not easy,” he said.

From academics to housing and dining, from flight operations to cleaning schedules, the goal is to reduce risk while enabling the campus community to take part in campus life.

Planning, preparation and response

“I feel very good about our preparation efforts,” said Eric Plummer, associate vice president for public safety and chief of police. “We are working across the institution to be not only COVID-resistant, but also COVID-resilient. I think we will go through this as a community and emerge stronger because of it.”

Eric Plummer

Plummer has a lot of experience in risk and emergency management. He heads up the Pandemic Planning & Response Team, which has been meeting daily for months, and was formed well before the coronavirus became news. In fact, other universities are using UND’s plans as best practices.

“We had a lot of pandemic planning done for H1N1, ebola, and swine flu,” Plummer said. “It’s easier to manage if you have a good foundation. But this is unique. This pandemic is affecting entire nations, and supply chains are affected for the campus, state, nation and world.”

The team, which has about 35 members ranging from vice presidents to experts in safety, health, academics and finances, meets daily to ensure the campus is as safe as possible.

“We will work with students, faculty and staff to maintain a healthy living and learning environment,” Plummer said.

High quality education

UND’s goal is to provide a high-quality education while keeping students, faculty and staff safe.

Rosy Dub

“We are committed to being as COVID-resistant as possible,” said Rosy Dub, director of student health, who added that UND is working closely with the North Dakota Department of Health and Grand Forks Public Health and following CDC recommendations. “We’ll have markers and reminders to encourage physical distancing, for example, by modifying 100-student classrooms to 30-student classrooms. Aerospace has a separate, detailed safety plan to ensure airport safety.”

Along with touchless transactions and an increased reliance on technology, Dub said that UND IT has even been thinking about how to ensure effective teaching.

“IT has tested to make sure that students can hear and understand faculty who are wearing masks,” Dub said. “They’ve even marked podiums and perimeters for audibility. We are so fortunate at UND to have the backing of administration to protect students, faculty and staff. They are absolutely on board for making campus as COVID-resistant as possible.”

Much of the planning and work is being done by the Safety Office and Facilities Management. Staff members are visiting each classroom to determine how many students can safely be in the room. Floor markers and signage across campus will encourage physical distancing and safe interactions. Cleaning and maintenance staff will disinfect and clean areas.

The Healthy Hawks Safety Levels guide is available on the coronavirus blog.

Levels of operation

As coronavirus cases rise and fall, UND will have levels of operations that will guide academic and other activities, and will be able to pivot from remote working and learning to in-person classes as needed.

“The virus will dictate the levels. We want to provide high-quality education, keep everyone safe, and follow physical distancing guidelines,” said Jennifer Berger, director of emergency management.  “The overarching objective is to keep everyone safe, and to test, contact trace and isolate anyone who may get sick on campus. Our leaders are thinking about pandemic safety every day.”

Masks, sanitizer, and other equipment will be purchased centrally and distributed to the campus.

Physical distancing and separation requirements will be put in place, and a less dense teaching and learning environment will allow UND to maintain campus life and activities.

Members of the campus community will be encouraged to wear face coverings or masks, and the University plans to  supply each member of the University community with two washable, UND-branded face coverings. Hand sanitizer will be available in every building, and all areas on campus will see increased cleaning and sanitizing by members of UND Facilities.

Fewer students will be allowed in classrooms to promote physical distancing, and more classrooms will be in service. Passing times between classes have been increased to minimize crowding. Most buildings will have designated entrances and exits, along with “one way” stairwells where possible. Students will be asked to wipe down desks and lab areas.

Residence halls will have one student per room, and students will not congregate in the dining halls.

Plexiglass barriers will be put in place across campus, and touchless technology will be used for transactions.

The University will be prepared to offer isolation and quarantine for students who may contract the virus. They will be referred to medical services if they exhibit symptoms.

Thankful for support

None of this would be possible without support.

“We are very thankful for assistance from the federal government, our Congressional delegation, and the state and Legislature,” Shivers said. “They have been very supportive in enabling us to obtain resources that benefit all the North Dakota University System campuses.”

Shivers also said he appreciates that Dr. Joshua Wynne, vice president for health sciences and former interim president, was willing to take on a new role as chief health strategist for the state.

“It’s a great move for the citizens of our state. Dr. Wynne will provide an important perspective on dealing with COVID-19 during and after the pandemic as he works to develop strategic approaches to improving health care in our state. It’s a critical role for UND and the state.”

Shivers noted that even though most faculty and staff are working remotely, staff remain on campus.

“We really appreciate those who are coming in and making the campus safer,” he said. “There is a lot of great work being done on campus.”

For the most current information regarding notifications about the coronavirus, UND’s response to in and any impacts on university classes, operations or events, visit UND’s Coronavirus Updates Blog. This blog will be updated regularly throughout the summer and fall.