Results on APPA 2021 Fall Reopening Strategies Survey
Identify One or Two COVID-Era Procedures/Practices/Protocols that Will Remain in Place Post-COVID.
- Employing more frequent cleaning and specifically high touch surface cleaning and disinfecting as well as utilizing enhanced cleaners/disinfectants.
- Offering more hand sanitizing and/or disinfecting wipes stations throughout campus.
- Offering flexible hybrid telework options and utilizing virtual platforms for meetings in lieu of in-person meetings on campus.
- Deploying electrostatic sprayers and/or foggers for deeper cleaning in public spaces such as restrooms and gyms/athletic spaces etc.
- Deliberately offering no or reduced trash collection by Custodial in private office spaces. Private offices are not cleaned as often or the individual will need to submit a request to have it cleaned by Custodial staff.
- Removing water fountains and replacing them with bottle filling stations.
- Utilizing Plexiglas at first contact spaces such as front desks, service desks, and transaction areas.
- Increasing the number of touchless fixtures where appropriate to do so.
- Ensuring enhanced HVAC protocols including but not limited to MERV 13+ filters, additional duct cleaning, increased air exchanges and run times, outside air where possible, HEPA room filtration units, air scrubbers, and UV treatments are operating as intended/expected.
- Continuing social distancing and masking protocols.
Identify any emerging practice(s) that you now plan to implement in the future because they worked better than your pre-COVID practice(s).
- Enhanced telework/flexible hybrid options provided to employees.
- Higher utilization of WEBEX/ZOOM etc. in the future to facilitate better communication and take the place of in-person meetings.
- Utilizing DocuSign for electronic approvals/signatures for construction/maintenance pay requests etc.
- More enhanced and intense focused cleaning and more frequent cleaning on high touch surfaces.
- Increased number of hand sanitizing stations.
- Decreasing service within individual/private offices. Individuals are encouraged to empty their own trash and disinfect their own offices.
- Installing foot operated doors, increasing power door operators and installing room control monitoring.
- Transitioning to centralized shipping/receiving in order to reduce in-building mail/parcel deliveries.
- Utilizing 2nd shift cleaning of high traffic areas.
- Increased communication, coordination, and integration with facility directors across the campus.
- Increased inspection of facilities for cleanliness and availability of disinfectant materials.
- Regular use of electrostatic sprayers used in high traffic/public spaces.
- Adoption of a more comprehensive interior building health focus with a portfolio of building health enhancements such as (fogging, utilizing continuous disinfecting Nano-technology of surfaces, continuous air sanitization with UV and hydroxyl ionization).
- Implementing/expanding a Healthy Smart Building Team.
- Ensuring enhanced HVAC protocols including but not limited to MERV 13+ filters, increased air exchanges (100% in some cases) and run times, disinfecting equipment and IAQ monitors, biofilm cleaning of AHUs, CO2 monitors to manage air quality, and increased filter replacements.
- Staggered work shifts as well as staggered move-ins for students and student class start times.
- Enhanced tracking/scheduling of rooms and occupancy rates to target cleaning efficiencies.
What is the single greatest need you have that prevents you from feeling prepared for reopening this fall?
- STAFFING! Huge gaps exist in some critical O&M areas like custodial and maintenance.
- Receiving adequate funding to fully staff departments.
- Requiring mandatory vaccinations of both students (primarily) and some staff/faculty.
- Obtaining clear guidance at the local/state/federal/CDC levels and being able to adjust accordingly.
- Fear of variants or second waves this fall.
- Needing clarity around continued HVAC requirements/upgrades/retrofits (i.e. aerosol transmission/particle movement, dealing with complexities of pneumatic vs. digital controlled systems, confirmation of OSA volumes, and IAQ questions/concerns)
- Needing additional funding to implement HVAC requirements/upgrades/retrofits.
- Getting faculty/staff re-oriented to in-person teaching and working to help them overcome their fears/concerns around this.
- Not knowing the vaccination status of students/faculty/staff.
- Obtaining clear guidance/direction from the administration/executive leadership on reopening plans.
- Concerns around whether student enrollment will increase.
- Time is critical if guidance for reopening isn’t finalized timely in order to prepare accordingly.
Results on Spring Reopening Challenges
What still remains the biggest challenge around COVID testing and contact tracing protocols/procedures? How will you adjust for the Spring semester?
- Cost of administering testing is substantial
- Timeliness of test results negatively impacts spread and contact tracing efforts
- Testing capacity/availability
- Burnout/overload with volunteer and paid staff with this effort
- Getting students to comply with all aspects of social distancing, testing, and tracing
- Public health departments are now overwhelmed and/or underfunded so efforts to campuses are now working to fill the gap with their own staff, resources, and time
- The nature of COVID spread (hotspots) makes testing/tracing a constant and unpredictable challenge
Ensuring that everyone is tested. Testing will be mandatory for students, faculty and staff. We are building our own student test processing center. We are increasing the number of testing sites on campus. Student Health is working closely with the University Hospital and county health departments for contact training. Public Safety is working closely with the town police force to enforce the wearing of mask, 6 ft distancing and outdoor and indoor event capacity.
Social distancing guidelines and mask wearing protocols are in place, but they are not being followed by most students which makes tracing and safety issues hard to carry out.
We plan on doing more pool testing. This worked well in the Fall semester, but we didn’t start doing it until halfway through. All of the other testing procedures and sewage sampling methods will remain in place since they worked well during the fall semester.
Cost, health staffing to administer tests, track testing, and care for those in quarantine and isolation. Servicing students in quarantine and isolation on campus with meals etc. Our campus has scheduled a normal Spring Break although that could change. Athletics is a huge challenge in all aspects—from the affordability and ability to administer the required testing, to the challenges of positive cases seen within the athletic group even when they were not actually playing the sport. Athletes will be tested 3 times per week (3rd party testing administration) when conference games are scheduled. Entrance testing before returning to campus for all students is being considered, but the administration has not made a final decision as of today.
Communicating to faculty and advisors a student’s absence and ensuring fair treatment for the student. Increasing dialogue at college level to ensure consistent practices. Students responding to contact tracing (and cutting off their IT access until they respond.) That seems to be working. With recent surge, ramping up contact tracing volunteers. Learning as we go.
Continued compliance of students and staff to social distancing and reporting protocols. Implementing policy requiring reporting even if off-campus. Another challenge is the strain on the system to support isolation protocol (outreach, support, facilities, assignments, access, etc.)
What still remains the biggest challenge around HVAC retrofits/upgrades? How will you adjust for the Spring semester?
- Cost of retrofits/upgrades
- Lack of funds available in the budget to retrofit/upgrade
- Lack of labor to install and retrofit HVAC systems
- Managing expectations around the cost and time to maintain existing older systems and keep them running as optimally as possible
- Lots of supply issues around obtaining MERV filters
- Managing perceptions with faculty, students, and community around the health and safety of buildings
- Bringing in outside/fresh air and implementing de-densification measures are being optimized
We had issues with supply chain and lead times on filters, but our initial orders included what we needed for Spring so we should be prepared. We have already made system upgrades in the spaces that we are using for classes. Our fall occupancies were based on outside air calculations in addition to 6′ distances. Due to winter weather limitations, we will be revisiting our system operations and may make further occupancy adjustments. There are now models (https://www.cunybpl.org/resources/airborne-infection-risk-calculator/) that can be used to better assess risk. Buildings without mechanical ventilation remain a challenge and we will adjust occupancy and add portable filtration as necessary.
For institutions that have not invested heavily in upgrading their systems, especially in older buildings, lack of documentation and outdated control systems limit our ability to confidently tell the campus community that systems are operating in a manner that does all we can to mitigate the spread of the virus. Every institution now wishes they had invested years ago in continuous commissioning.
We have old classrooms with poor ventilation. We are utilizing portable HEPA filter units where possible. Upgrading the box/final fixtures to MERV 14. Changing all pre-filters on AHU. We are also repairing and replacing dampers for improved outside air flow and using UV lights in AHU.
We have managed fairly well for the Fall with frequent filter changes and have not seen spread from academic or auxiliary buildings. We installed a disinfecting system in our residence hall air handlers and are hoping to install them in our larger units serving academic and auxiliary buildings when these units are available from the manufacturer. We have held several educational sessions with faculty and staff about how we are adjusting and maintaining our HVAC systems and that has been helpful with calming fears and concerns. Inadequate fresh air will become more of an issue if we experience a hot and humid spring in the South.
Cold weather restricts our abilities to efficiently maximize outside air; it is a balancing act regarding health and energy consumption.
With doubling out outside air intake, the utility bills for the winter will go up and in some cases, due to the freeze stats, we need to lower the outside air intake.
Knowing which applications are viable, affordable, and able to be accomplished realistically this late in the game.
Seasonal changes are challenging us while we try to keep a modicum of energy oversight in place. Scheduling of systems is a challenge also. Lots of tweaking and fine tuning for somewhat spotty and erratic occupancies.
Honestly, it is the cost of installation for the entire campus and residence halls. We have reviewed and implemented several action items as recommended. For example, fresh air exchanges have increased via extended run times or purging processes. Filters have been upgraded and some UV systems installed in some locations. Biggest challenge is getting the right technology in place within the financial constraints we now have.
What challenges exist for your institution with respect to wasterwater testing?
- It’s expensive!
- Samples pulled from manholes create challenges such as:
- Lack of specificity with regard to individual buildings if multiple buildings tie into the same line
- Additional staffing and time is required to collect and analyze samples
- Some manholes are on highly trafficked roads creating logistical challenges
- Weather creates problems with accessing manholes
- The nature of the work itself!
A couple of the locations are in manholes that are in major roadways. As such, we bring two staff in early (on OT) to sample these locations before traffic picks up. We’ve also had some recent cases of vandalism at the sampling stations.
The ability to take samples for some individual buildings. It is much easier to collect samples from a manhole where buildings combine than from a clean out for an individual building. We do not have enough auto-samplers and manual single samples can miss the virus.
High failure rates due to continual presence of viral load in wastewater after first detection creates false positives. Limited resources to collect and analyze.
What is the single greatest challenge with your external community relationships?
- Managing community perceptions of the virus:
- Communities may blame campuses for spreading the virus in their community but the facts reveal this is not the case in many instances.
- Communities may not take social distancing protocols seriously and this creates extreme tension and undermines the work that the campuses are doing to control the spread to the greater community
- Off campus students and their actions within the community are a constant challenge
- Communities continue to view the local campus grounds as “their park” and this creates issues due to the fact that most campus grounds are closed to external, non-essential people.
- Local establishments (i.e. bars/restaurants) do not comply or do not take the social distancing protocols seriously enough
Communicating how social distancing protocols protect everyone, faculty, staff, student, and the community in a way that is understood and accepted. There is still a large part of the community that refuses to believe in the effectiveness of the social distancing protocols and therefore are resistant to participating in those protocols.
No challenge, communication is number one and the plan and seems to be right on.
Our campus is closed to non-essential visitors, but we have an open, non-gated campus so there is no way to restrict the community from being on campus to walk, exercise, etc.
At this point, it’s really just perception. But we did a great job this fall to keep cases very low, so we’ve proven to the community that we’re devoted and we can handle it – that goes a long way with them.
Our dashboard is easily accessible and the town’s is not. Although our University positive case numbers are lower (percentage wise) than the surrounding community, we often get blamed for being the source of bringing COVID-19 to the surrounding community.
The behavior of off campus students not following recommendations and guidelines for gatherings, crowd size, etc. The impact on student teaching as we prepare teaching professionals with K-12 students being online or hybrid with less exposure to the classroom prior to graduation.
The belief campus is driving positivity rates in the county. Fact is, the outlying small communities are driving the county positivity rates (determined from a zip code analysis), and campus has a positivity rate below 6% right now. Community is also critical of in-person sporting events decisions. Community did adopt campus cares campaign to market the four tenets of wear a face covering, physically distance, wash hands, and stay away if sick.
How is Pandemic Fatigue affecting you and your staff?
- Increased level of complacency around adhering to social distancing protocols (mostly involving students)
- Morale is low
- Difficult to avoid personal interactions that were commonplace pre-pandemic
- Absenteeism is high and continues to rise
- Mental health issues (i.e. depression, angry outbursts, anxiety, etc.) abound and concerns over the upcoming dark, cold winter months will exacerbate this issue
- Extreme exhaustion, fatigue, and stress are commonplace
- Furloughs/layoffs are looming due to decreased enrollments and budget cuts etc.
- Retirements are accelerating and with hiring frozen in many cases, it’s placing additional workload stress on others
- So many employees are now tasked with new and additional job functions related to COVID outside their normal workload that did not decrease or diminish
- Productivity levels have been lowered or have been lost altogether (i.e. capital improvements are not being addressed at all due to COVID priorities)
- Fairness issues between remote staff and essential workers persists and has created resentment and hostility in some cases
- There is real fatigue around the constant pressure and extreme daily focus on all things COVID
It’s brutal and it’s uneven. The overwhelming burden of new COVID requirements is falling on a handful of teams and a cadre of volunteer leaders while most of the staff at the University get to stay home and work remote. It’s creating exhaustion and a fairness issue. More broadly, we also see that infections are up among staff not because of their activities at work but rather their choices during non-work hours. I would also attribute this to pandemic fatigue. They just don’t have the willpower to maintain the safety measures anymore.
We are tired; short-tempered; lacking focus on anything but COVID; loss of sense of accomplishment; people have a desire for what was instead of focusing on a non-COVID future.
The extroverts are not getting enough interaction to maintain their energy levels. The introverts are looking forward to more opportunities to work from outside of the facility. Team building is much harder, in spite of all of the advice about how to engage your team virtually.
Stress and morale. Our team strives on community within itself and with our customers. Not having those person to person opportunities is having significant impacts on mental health. With no “end in sight” there is less hope each day. With discipline surrounding wearing of masks, it continues to create an environment that is no longer enjoyable.
Essential personnel are stressed to the maximum. Our campus never closed and many staff continued to work even during the worst periods of shut downs. Administrators are suffering from Zoom fatigue and lack of any time off. Most did not have a summer break at all and many have been working 7 day weeks for much of the year.
Everyone seems to be pushing through as best they can. We have lost a lot of those spur of the moment great ideas that come from brainstorming or interacting in the same work environment. Informal, but important, information exchange is not happening as easily so I worry that some may feel isolated or uninformed when compared to pre-COVID operations.
Everyone is really tired and very grateful that our College takes a full two week Winter Break and sends everyone home with pay. We will have a few projects being done by outside contractors and a couple of facility managers working some during the break but the campus is virtually empty and closed which provides a nice break. I think the inability to do some of the socializing we do especially around this time of year is difficult for our employees because it is a time we come together and thank people with special meals etc. We all miss that and are seeking meaningful ways to do that while trying to keep everyone safe as the virus spirals even more out of control.
Most of our staff has been going hard since last Spring. Other areas of the institution don’t grasp our situation as they have a very “laid back” attitude and have been working from home or getting “emergency pay” for various reasons. Most of our functions require a physical presence. When we have institution wide weekly supervisory or employee updates online, they always ask “what have people been doing with all of their spare time”? It doesn’t sit well with our staff because they are as busy or more so than any of us has ever been in our many year careers.
It seems the staff with boots in the buildings doing the work are busy and less impacted. Management who is used to consistent and predictable work patterns are challenged with too many what ifs and a lack of predictability for planning.
Staff have pulled together to support one another but the pressure of supporting students in isolation buildings and remaining constantly vigilant to keep people safe; recognizing the financial impact on staff who have tested positive or been quarantined without paid leave multiple times; layoff and furlough impacts due to severe revenue shortfalls; online fatigue for students and staff; target of frustration that things are not back to “normal”; child and eldercare at home is all too exhausting.
Everyone is doing their best, but morale is very low. Custodial staff feel very unappreciated, articulating this frustration they are at high risk even though all PPE and training is provided (note: it’s acknowledged Custodial staff are front line and more likely to be exposed, therefore we protect more). Maintenance staff are very frustrated by budget cut challenges and hiring freezes. All FM staff perceive double standards of campus accountability to safety guidelines (masks, distancing, hand hygiene, etc.). Many key positions on campus are announcing retirements at end of academic year. FM leadership are exhausted and nearly everyone is aware more budget challenges are likely.
We are exhausted from the continual changes and interruptions due to COVID. We continue to see a reduction in the workforce due to HR directing employees to quarantine for 14 days at the slightest indication of exposure while at the same time experiencing increased demands to clean and sanitize campus spaces. The continual interruptions due to COVID are hindering our ability to plan for needed capital projects as well.
It is a slog…keeping everyone engaged and practicing personal responsibility is difficult. We have needed to push up close to the disciplinary line to enforce basic best practices. The unknown as it relates to budget and reconstitution to the new norm also creates a bit of angst. At least the election is over!!!!
What is the single greatest need you have that prevents you from feeling prepared for reopening this Spring?
- The need to remove all uncertainty/unknowns/fluidity of the situation
- What does the new normal look like?
- Containing COVID outbreaks
- Having a vaccine and knowing how it’ll be distributed
- Obtaining clear guidance at the local/state/federal levels and being able to adjust accordingly
- Maintaining adequate staffing levels
- Knowing how many students will be returning in the Spring
- Getting students to continue to adhere to all social distancing guidelines for another semester
- Managing budget shortfalls due to declining enrollment
We need an answer to what normal is going to be like from this point forward. Will we forever need to implement social distancing protocols to prevent the next pandemic? Is there going to be a permanent change in the way we design and build for the future due to this pandemic?
More capable people in all frontline areas. We had a team of about 100-200 people that made the operation run at great personal cost during the Fall. If those same people are relied upon again for the Spring, it will create some very serious issues – both for those people and their families as well as for the University.
It’s not the physical work. It’s the elevated expectations for readied data. Such as, how is the air quality in every school, every minute of the day? That will be difficult to achieve. Plus, with more data about the virus surfacing all the time, you are never really prepared.
Definitive planning/timelines/milestones…data. We still don’t know how many students are returning and which residence halls and classrooms they will be using.
We actually feel like we’ve now done everything we can in the physical environment and with our processes. Our greatest need is more global – we need a vaccine, we need enrollment numbers to climb etc. The need for funding is real – especially for testing.
More experienced HVAC managers and technicians. A history of undertraining and apathy have placed even more burden on the small number of competent professionals that truly understand how their systems operate, and can adjust them accordingly, without causing other issues.
The need for students, faculty and staff to be fully committed in following and obeying the University’s reopening plans, procedures and rules. The need for everyone to hold themselves and everyone else accountable.
Redundancy in essential personnel. Many retired during the pandemic and we are leaner than ever.
Staff consistency – lots of staff leave to manage – quarantines, school work arounds, etc. We never seem to be operating at 100% capacity for staffing.
Indecision, we are plagued with that. Ample decision making and guidance has been our toughest opponent during this pandemic. “Knee jerk” reactions and no process mapping from our executive leadership has caused us to have discord. Decision making is essential to plan and strategize the best outcome and our organization has not been championing that model.
Majority buy-in from students/faculty/staff and the nearby community to the basics: face coverings (inside & outside), hand washing, physical distancing (avoid crowds) and practicing good personal hygiene. Majority commitment to getting the vaccine shots(s) as soon as readily available!
We are ready. We don’t have a real need. It is just the thought that we don’t know what will happen. I expect that the vaccine won’t really be available to the population until the Fall of 2021. Then moving back to normal or the “new normal”.
Clear guidance from state and federal governments, including an overall strategy of how to lower cases of the illness as well as cohesive testing across states, cities, counties, etc. The effective distribution of a vaccine will also be critical.
I really feel like we are as prepared as we can be at present. Our processes and plans put in place worked and have been tweaked. Indicators are we will have fewer students on campus than during the Fall. Our two biggest concerns are if we experience a heavier caseload of positive students, how quickly will our quarantine and isolation space be overloaded, and can our limited staffing hold up to meeting their service needs, and what will a true Spring Break mean for the campus in April?
What is the single greatest challenge you continue to face as you finalize your reopening plans for the Spring semester?
- Staffing shortages or limitations on adding staff
- Preparing for the unknown
- Having access to a proven vaccine that can be easily deployed and is effective and safe
- Communicating effectively across departments
- Handling student compliance issues around social distancing protocols
- Not knowing student enrollment numbers for the future
- The need to have faster testing capability and contact tracing results
- Logistics around bringing students back in the Spring with ever changing guidelines
- PPE supply shortages
- Faculty are resisting teaching in-person
- Uncertainty around future planning efforts
- Managing reduced budgets and financial constraints
- Handling mental health issues such as employee morale
Determining the appropriate level of testing for students. We started in the fall testing students every two weeks. That frequency quickly increased to testing students every week once we had a surge of positive cases. Based on cursory research, it appears schools who tested students twice per week had a far lower positivity rate, mitigated the risk of a surge, and remained fully open.
With most endeavors, communication always seems to be the biggest challenge. Any change in the pandemic that requires a change from what is planned could create modifications to the reopening.
We have planned well for Spring Semester and all contingencies. Our biggest challenges are what lies ahead- with budgets, with enrollments, with a vaccine roll out and delivery and with the Transformed Campus we must build.
Solid, continuous messaging (local/state/federal) and even more importantly, the focused listening of our entire community with resultant actions.
Understanding the impact and timeline of any possible vaccine. The doubling of athletic activities will create very busy schedules for the maintenance teams.
Handling the additional workloads with limited staffing and limited budgets. Keeping staff from experiencing burnout or complacency in being vigilant with COVID-19 safety measures.
Communication. Without the ability to have large gatherings and share information as a group, pieces of information get lost, dropped, or misinformed along the “telephone” channel.
Rising cases across the community are starting to have a noticeable effect on staff availability as more people are quarantined. We are concerned about increasing exposure as more students, faculty, and staff return to campus before a vaccine is widely available.
Future uncertainty is the greatest challenge; for example no one is willing or can give you a straight answer, there is difficulty in planning any major even minor facility projects since money has dried up, budgets are being slashed as we speak, enrollment numbers have dropped, growth projections have been tossed out the window, budget forecast have little meaning, students dislike online classes, etc.
How do you feel about your institution’s overall level of preparedness for the Spring semester?
- Pretty much every single response was positive. The following represents a sampling of all the positive responses received on this question:
We will be ready based on what we know now but so much can change between now (late-Nov, 2020) and then (mid-Jan, 2021). Our readiness and our resiliency plans must remain flexible and prepared to pivot into available options as necessary.
Reasonably good since we have made it through the Fall semester without having to go totally online. I would have preferred that we did not include a Spring Break in the schedule, but that may be subject to change. Our processes and plans have been executed and have worked and tweaked where needed. If students get and take a vaccine early in 2021, we just might make it through the Spring semester. I am concerned though about what the summer of 2021 will look like if we try to run our usual rental activities and campus doesn’t get a break.
Our plan is good and well thought out. We feel that we have more capacity to utilize staffing and resources. Enrollment numbers are still down until our international students can begin to obtain VISAs and travel returns to pre-pandemic levels. At this time we are in a deficit budget fiscal year.
Anxious: Because we are planning for many more students in housing and classrooms than we had in the fall. We have not had many opportunities to stress test the systems we have in place.
Moderate level of preparedness. There are a number of lessons learned to be analyzed and implemented to improve for the spring. I am concerned that we will lose time due to pandemic fatigue and the need to “take a break” following student departure from campus.
I think we will bring students back to campus and send them home within three weeks, not because we are unprepared, but because it is so difficult to control behavior.
Good to very good. We made it through the Fall semester and are using the same basic approach for spring with a “re-energizing” PR campaign to keep people focused.
I feel we are prepared. Our processes, procedures, and mitigation steps have worked very well. We have had a fraction of the number of cases other similar colleges have had despite being located in a densely populated metro area.
Generally we are prepared. Most of the adjustments that we are making are around managing behaviors and communicating expectations in what could be a higher degree of community spread in the surrounding community than we experienced last semester.
Do you feel better or worse than you felt during the reopening for this past Fall semester?
- The good news here is that respondents feel overwhelmingly better than they did when preparing for Fall reopening.
- Most of the respondents who reported feeling worse clarified that their feelings were centered around the virus and case numbers escalating, and not the way their institution was handling the situation.
Worse. Not because I am afraid it won’t work but because I know it will work and I know how much it requires of me and everyone else on the team and I’m not sure I want to do it again. At least in the Fall we didn’t know what a heavy lift it was going to be until we were already picking it up. Now we full well know what we are stepping into and it’s demoralizing.
We feel better prepared to deal with COVID cleaning and disinfecting and mask wearing. Getting supplies does not appear to be a big issue now, the problem is the cost of supplies and labor to carry out the increased request to provide a COVID free environment. Basically the cost of business has increased while we are experiencing a decrease in revenue at the same time.
Better. We proved the plan we developed over the spring and summer can work. We need to modify certain aspects to make it more sustainable, but the framework of the plan is solid.
Worse, but primarily because of the fall surge in cases. In summer, cases were down, and there was optimism that the worst was behind us. We now know that people too often do not act in the best of interest of the larger society, and put our personal and economic health at risk. Perhaps they will be proven correct, and their mental health is more important, but I doubt that history will see it that way.
Worse, based on increased positivity rates in the state, low mask compliance, and overwhelmed hospitals and healthcare workers.
Better, we have experience now and have weathered a semester with lessons learned. The Spring sports that weren’t allowed in the Fall though will add a new dimension that we haven’t experienced so that could throw everything into a tail spin if we don’t stay on top of it and bring any outbreaks under control quickly.
Much better. Summer was a good shakedown for us. We learned a ton during the fall and feel we’re ready for Spring.
Better from a preparedness perspective. Worse from a pandemic fatigue perspective.
Worse because of fatigue and the unknown timeline for ‘normalcy’. And winter is always a more ‘depressing’ time than the sunny time of the year.
Better, but remain concerned about the effects of flu season and complications it may cause related to extensive quarantine of campus community.
Better in the sense that we now know what to expect, worse in that our numbers are MUCH higher today than they were in August.
Worse, but I attribute that to the number of cases in my state. I feel pretty good about the campus’ position.
Way better. We have one round under our belt so we have a better sense of what to expect.
Better and worse. Better in that we did very well limiting cases in the first semester. Worse in that we will have fall and spring sports going on at the same time keeping crews overly busy. I am nervous about having adequate custodial coverage.
Better, but things are continuously changing and the increased physical/mental stresses are starting to take small tolls on our team of students/faculty/staff/community.
Results on Reopening Challenges and Lessons Learned
What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned with your housing move-in process?
Move-In Process Top 5 Responses:
- An extended length of time was necessary for this process (spread out over many days as well as staggered/scheduled times for move-in)
- Ensuring that students/parents followed protocols around social distancing, PPE requirements, etc.
- Frequent and clear communication to students/parents/staff was critical
- Managing expectations throughout the process was important
- Remaining flexible and adaptable to changes that needed to be made
Examples of Challenges and Lessons Learned:
- One of the biggest challenges was dealing with student belongings – they left in March for spring break and never returned. We held opportunities for students/families to recoup their belongings this summer – many did not come – so our custodial team had to move it all back to newly assigned rooms. Careful consideration of all perspectives in the development of plans and communication are key to the success of any plan.
- Good, honest communications with faculty, staff and students about how the university would approach startup of fall semester. Having a plan for dealing with and getting the word out about wearing PPE, classroom cleaning, move-in over several days, longer period between classes during the day, back-up plan for online classes for quarantine and isolation students.
- Challenge: maintaining community cohesion and establishing confidence through communications. Lessons-learned: (1) the campus grapevine thrives even in diaspora. Consolidate information in a central location, and designate one or two people to disseminate official policy and reporting. (2) Acknowledge that this is a novel, evolving, situation, and be transparent about decisions being made to improve our response as we learn more. An educated community will respond to demonstrated leadership, better than opaque decisiveness. (3) Make larger info distributions simple and clear, addressing the timeliest awareness of policy or procedures needed. But over-communicate in the background. Answer every question you receive, and make those records searchable for those that want to wade in.
- We spread out our move-in process over a full week. While it taxed Housing and the volunteers, the process went very smoothly with minimal complaints from parents. We are urging Housing to make this a standing process in future years, regardless of the existence of a pandemic. It allowed our facilities staff to be able to respond quickly to any calls we received – during a normal move-in over a two day period, our facilities folks couldn’t respond as quickly to calls.
- We used an on-line appointment system and outside (tent) check in to reduce density. This model was built on lessons learned from move out that occurred in March (spring semester).
- Contactless move-in procedures were quite a change. However, with fewer people moving into the halls it went very well. Residents adhered to their scheduled move-in time. Lines at the elevators were minimal. Biggest change or lesson learned was making sure everyone understood the plan including the residents moving into the halls. Managing expectations was the challenge.
- The check-in procedure was quickly overwhelmed. Plans for cleaning and maintenance must be ready before hand and thoroughly communicated with staff. We seemed to find changes being made without notification which complicated things.
- The biggest challenge was scheduling student testing in conjunction with arrival.
- Challenges in getting fast turnaround on pre-arrival testing of students, plus conflicting messages between official communication channels and “what people heard / read” shared on social media (parents).
- There were so few (less than 300) students making the process much easier to manage. Each student was assigned a move-in date and time. This was a well facilitated process by our Residence Services Department, with strict COVID guidelines being followed. Elevators and all touch point surfaces were disinfected after each scheduled move-in time.
What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned with your wayfinding/signage process?
Signage/Wayfinding Process Top 5 Responses:
- Too many signs (ignored/not read, visual clutter)
- Starting well before Fall semester and moving quickly to install signage was critical to success
- Allowing different departments to create/modify signage created confusion
- Ensuring students complied with signage was important
- Having consistent messaging/uniformity with colors/branding was important
Examples of Challenges and Lessons Learned:
- We should have gotten the signage information out much earlier in the summer as many departments took it upon themselves to hang their own signs and there was no consistency with the messaging. It became a heavier lift for facilities operations to take down existing signs and hang the approved signage with only two weeks left before classes.
- A standard signage set was developed with customizable templates. Having these helped keep some consistency across campus. There were some places where individual department flow plans for buildings conflicted so we had to develop some informal protocols for addressing those.
- Just the sheer number of buildings involved proved a challenge, as well as coordinating with those in charge at each building so that they had input as to how they wanted to approach entering/exiting, stairway travel(limiting travel up or down for particular staircases).
- The signage on the floors isn’t ideal. Hard to clean over stickers with floor machines, vacuum cleaners etc. Stickers being removed and knowing where they were and if they needed to be replaced. When the snow and salt start coming in the buildings, the signage on the floors will come up.
- Finalizing verbiage based on school policies, and determining how much or little to install. Also, completing install under time constraints and consistency through all facilities.
- Start well in advance (which we did). Involve the college communications office from the start, to ensure consistency and college brand identity. Involve the events office, facilities, and public health expertise.
- People are sign-blind by now. Spent lots of money as it provided a visible example of our commitment but don’t know that they were needed to the extent that they were provided.
- The biggest challenge is having people actually read the signage and follow directions.
- Afterthought not planned in advanced. Lesson: Advance planning with foresight. Having strategic sourcing agreements for signage with qualified vendor in advance.
- Balancing between enforcement and getting buy-in. Regulatory signs were avoided and we preferred using branded more appealing signage, but we had to quickly prepare and install ‘Masks required’ type signs — also overcrowding of signs was initially a challenge as well.
What has been the biggest challenge or lesson learned with your dining/food service process?
Dining/Food Service Process Top 5 Responses:
- Trash in the waste stream has increased dramatically (i.e. pests are more prevalent and Grounds crews have to empty trash much more frequently)
- Take out/delivery/food apps/and reduced food option menus are the new norm
- Long lines/limited seating created social distancing concerns. Removing masks indoors to eat also raises new concerns.
- Limited food service options have created reduced hours for staff and revenue shortfalls
- Socially distant outdoor seating options have presented new and unique challenges
Examples of Challenges and Lessons Learned:
- That students still want to continue to socialize without taking the required safety precautions. Having a hybrid semester makes it difficult to gauge the number of folks that will come to eat in-dining services.
- All dining centers have a limited amount of seating allowed and all orders are put into take out containers. Each student could get 6 containers per meal which has caused a large increase in the amount of trash being generated.
- All students are required to live on campus and we have one dining room that seats all students at a time. Had to significantly change dining to accommodate multiple meal shifts, promote social distancing, and keep same group of students together at each meal to assist with contact tracing. Queuing through the serving line is especially challenging.
- The lines are longer than anticipated as we typically rely on student workers not available during initial quarantine. We are doing take out for the first 3 weeks with limited indoor dinning (not yet established). The reliance on take-out is generating a lot of trash especially given the volume of each take out container. Preserving the waste management elements of our sustainability plan is being challenged.
- Be prepared for a significantly larger meal-related waste stream, originating from places that are not normally seen as significant. For example, our grounds crew now works 7 days per week to clear food-related trash from cans around campus (meals to go so far, first sit-down meals at dining hall this coming weekend).
- Students were not compliant with the guidelines for the first few days – too many people entered the dining area, students were moving tables & chairs, etc. Since most food is to go and outdoor seating has increased, significantly more trash pick-up has been needed and during hours that Grounds isn’t typically on campus. We’ve had to utilize contractors to perform additional trash removals. Bees have been a huge issue with outdoor dining. Numerous students are getting stung and it’s been difficult to mitigate since they are attracted to the food and the trash cans.
- Keeping up with the trash. During the first two weeks (when all residential students were self-quarantining) dining halls were take-out only. This created a lot of new waste in areas across campus (typically near the dining halls) that we hadn’t seen before. We made adjustments and put additional cans out in these areas, but the first few days resulted in a lot of over-flowing trash cans.
- Alternative venues have been created in outdoor spaces/areas. Weather (i.e. hurricane Laura, and subsequent rains) have greatly impacted availability, even with tent coverings.
What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned with your testing process procedures?
Testing Protocols/Procedures Top 5 Responses:
- Test results have been delayed which creates problems with contact tracing/isolation etc.
- Challenges around ensuring students comply with testing requirements on campuses
- Keeping up with changing rules/requirements around testing. It’s a fluid process on many levels.
- Communication challenges disseminating test results and managing repercussions of positive test results etc.
- Challenges with outside vendors/state/local health departments partnering with institutions on testing
Examples of Challenges and Lessons Learned:
- Integrated solutions to establish comprehensive testing/tracing, facilitate coordinated access, and ensuring compliance, requires broad involvement in both decision-making and implementation. This means a lot of involvement, and requires a lot of graciousness and collegiality from all those involved. Making sure that everyone feels appreciated and informed is critical.
- Tests are difficult to get and turnaround times have been challenging. We had to reduce our planned testing activities as a result.
- The original plan was to test 100% of incoming students. The ability to test that many people in a timely manner was not doable.
- Expect hiccups when working for the first time “live” with a new vendor and an entire campus community for whom this was all new material. Be prepared to improvise, adapt and overcome when those happen. Plan ahead carefully, including backups to the backup plans. When things start to go off the rails, execute the relevant backup plan.
- Challenge: Communication about the protocols/procedures. Student’s failure to report when they realized they would have to leave campus if they did so. The campus community failure to follow the protocols/procedures. Lesson Learned: More and clearer communication in more than one format.
- Testing was planned and executed but results were not well distributed and communicated…seemed useless to have even tested at the end.
- Students not reporting for testing or letting people know they are potentially positive. They know they will be placed in isolation or quarantine, potentially subject to disciplinary action etc. so they are not reporting or cooperating with protocols and requirements.
- Voluntary participation is not achieving needed levels of testing.
- Academics sent lists of students and staff who were allowed on campus. We set up a greeter’s station to verify a student’s name was on the list. Students had to wear masks in the buildings and when working together. If someone appeared unwell, we asked if we could take their temperature with an infrared thermometer. If they had a fever over 100.4, they were told to consult with their physician. Of course our buildings were laid out for social distancing, vending machines and drinking fountains were shut down. Actually it has gone very well.
- Good pre-planning and allowing a large enough parking lot to accommodate drive through testing.
- The challenge was not only receiving additional testing equipment (antigen testing) but also the necessary reagents to then get timely results. Need support by timely contact tracing and this has proved to be difficult when test results are also slow.
- We haven’t been on campus long enough to know about “new cases” but the pre-testing went well – arrival testing fine – finding the right test/vendor is key.
- Students remembering to show up for the test! The biggest challenge was finding a company to oversee the testing on-site and working through the first round of testing with that company.
What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned with your contact tracing process/procedures?
Contact Tracing Protocols/Procedures Top 5 Responses:
- Lack of adequate staffing/volunteers for labor intensive process
- Students not reporting truthfully and/or offering no responses at all
- Partnerships with external organizations appear to be going well
- Testing result delays create challenges “downstream” for tracing efforts
- Speed and accuracy is critical as well as remaining flexible/adaptable and communicating often
Examples of Challenges and Lessons Learned:
- We implemented contact “notification” that ran in tandem with the Department of Public Health contact tracing. The challenge with doing this quickly became not only the quantity of reports we were getting, but being able to turn those around quickly enough to make contact tracing effective.
- When someone presents a symptom on the electronic symptom checker, the Environmental Health and Safety department would contact them. When questioning the patient they must be accurate/consistent about what is asked. They need to be accurate in order to not get symptoms confused with seasonal allergies etc. This is where we went wrong. We need to get patient tested ASAP to ensure that this is not a symptom from something besides COVID.
- There wasn’t a consistent location for testing, which made it almost impossible to effectively perform contact tracing protocols. The test results also were delayed.
- Campus health staff were challenged by numbers and not all students/parents cooperated by providing contacts.
- We used our in-house Johns Hopkins trained folks (students and employees) the first week of positive tests. Our employees spent hours on the phone with the parents of the identified students. Lesson learned – quarantine, isolation and contact tracing plan was not fully developed and was updated. Worked with our local county health department to generate notification letters from them, not the college.
- The challenge was the length of time it takes for test results to come back, the self-reporting of a positive case resulted in a lag in time to identify where and when the positive cases were in the rooms/areas or buildings so to get cleaning and disinfecting done before anyone enters the room/area or buildings is another set of challenges.
- The speed with which we respond and start the process is key, in order to ensure all potential contacts are remembered by the individual in question.
- The level of digital information varies. More information on the front end creates concern with student information and less information on the front end takes more time for tracing.
- Challenge: Not having clearly developed and well validated contact tracing policies and protocols Lesson: Having approved and well defined and validated contact tracing procedures/work instructions with designated responsibilities.
- Identifying resources that are needed, as well as how to make contact tracing happen quickly once positive cases are identified.
- Having updated contact information in our system is a challenge.
- Contact tracing is being conducted by the State, but our app feeds directly to the Department of Public Health.
- Using the police department encourages higher degree of cooperation in tracing.
- Coordination with local health district is critical.
- Overwhelmed by the initial volume of contact tracing and the manpower required to manage.
What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned with your quarantine/isolation process?
Quarantine Process Top 5 Responses:
- Ensuring students remained in quarantine and followed all protocols around this
- Communication to all stakeholders was critical and challenging
- Managing turnover of spaces and everything associated with this (i.e. staffing/disinfecting, etc.)
- Logistics around meals and transporting students to quarantine was challenging
- Balancing HIPPA rules/requirements with communication needs to all stakeholders
Examples of Challenges and Lessons Learned:
- We prepared kits for the units with cleaning/disinfectants and other essentials for their stay but we did not think about the trash/ trash bags. We now have a process for safely picking up the trash in the units without needing to unnecessarily expose staff.
- Turnover of spaces is time consuming and challenging.
- If at all possible, we asked students to return to their homes during any isolation or quarantine period and continue their coursework online during that time. If they did have to stay, they were either moved to an isolation space (positive cases only and only if the current room they were in didn’t support true isolation) or asked to quarantine in their assigned space. In both cases, we had to arrange for trash pickups and meal deliveries. The University created a CARES team for students who handled all of these logistics. Facilities setup a procedure to clean true isolation rooms 24-48 hours after they were vacated. If students isolated in their existing assigned space, we did not clean those rooms.
- Preparedness is key. Having a quarantine procedure (room locations, transport for student belongings, food service, notifications, mail service, etc.) in place immediately following move-in was helpful as the student population was re-introduced to the campus. Additionally, Student Life pushed forward with an effort to essure quarantined students were contacted by staff regularly and fully supported through their periods of isolation (especially 1st and 2nd year students).
- Keeping in touch with the students so they know people are out there caring about not only their physical health but also mental health. Most students were freshman who are away from home for the first time. Daily check-ins to make sure they are handling the isolation well is key.
- Informing staff of which units are occupied and/or released. Managing the turn. We now use a visual clamshell lock cover to indicate available (clean) units. This means up to the minute info is available on-site at point of service decreasing reliance on electronic tracking.
- Setting up food delivery to quarantined students (who are scattered in current rooms throughout the housing inventory) has been a challenge. We’ve hired temp students to assist with food delivery.
- Our isolation plan is to relocate students to a separate building. Quarantine is in assigned dorm rooms. Biggest challenge is ensuring that students stay in their rooms while quarantining.
- Communication of where the student came from (dorm) and what room they were assigned to in quarantine. Not having one department/person compiling and sharing information with stakeholders has been problematic.
- Residents live in suites. As one suite-mate either tested positive and/or was exposed and reported, the entire suite was required to leave campus. Suites would then be sanitized top to bottom. Challenge: Some of the students could not go home. Where do they go? Lesson Learned: Have a contingency plan to assist students with this.
- Communication between housing, facilities, and EH&S as far as when rooms are occupied, which rooms are occupied, and when students depart from isolation/quarantine. It’s an ongoing issue.
- A few items: Communications to parents, students and senior administrators is critical around the complexity of isolation/quarantine housing. The largest challenge is knowing how many beds will be needed. The level of labor needed to support the students is also a factor. We developed a new case manager position to take care of the needs of the housed student to include physical, mental, and environmental.
- This process was actually very smooth. We added a nurse to the staffing in Residence (in addition to mental health resources already in residence). This provided direct, onsite support, and was a great demonstration of university commitment to keeping the student’s safe.
- Ensuring the students complied with the quarantine and did not return to campus until allowed to do so.
- Maintaining HIPPA while protecting staff and students.
What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned around any town gown issues?
Town Gown Issues Top 5 Responses:
- Communities are concerned that local universities/colleges are hotspots for increased COVID cases
- Social gatherings off campus continue to raise issues for both communities and campus
- Town hall meetings have helped as have discussions with bar owners and landlords for student housing
- Frequent communication, managing expectations, and being transparent with communities has improved the situation
- Communities have worked to assist and support campuses (reporting poor student behavior etc.)
Examples of Challenges and Lessons Learned:
- Our campus operates as the town park. Though I believe our community understands the campus closure to visitors as a mutual safety benefit for both students and community residents, some are disappointed with the loss of access to the campus grounds and the arboretum.
- De-densification of on campus housing pushed more students into the community which initially raised concerns. Adherence to mask wearing, social distancing, and limitations on gathering size has raised alarms in the community. Joint enforcement with local and campus police has been implemented. Loss of business revenue due to de-densification has also been challenging to the local economy.
- The university and the town worked together all summer preparing for the return of students. The biggest challenge was communicating all the steps that were being taken to keep the entire community safe over the coming weeks and months.
- Transparency in messaging to the college community and the local community is paramount in having a successful understanding of what’s happening on campus.
- We have regular Town and Gown meetings which really helped with this. Biggest challenge is students living off campus and their actions impacting others in the community/campus.
- Everyone discovered that as strict as you are on campus, it is much harder to influence and manage behavior in off-campus apartments. Town implemented mandatory-masking and restricted-gathering ordinances with fines for violations.
- We were immediately blamed for the increase in our local numbers, but much of that was misconstrued by the media since cases would be reported to the student’s official home residence and not locally. The University works closely with the city to ensure communication remains open and transparent.
What was the biggest challenge or lesson learned around any social justice issues?
Social Justice Issues Top 5 Responses:
- Protests have all been peaceful
- Campus leaders communicate frequently with protesters
- Campus leaders listen to protesters and engage in dialogue over the issues
- Protesters raise social distancing concerns in some communities
- Students/faculty have voiced safety/COVID related concerns on campus and these have been or are currently being addressed
Examples of Challenges and Lessons Learned:
- A task force is working on it. Messages from the Chancellor have helped. The Chancellor also started a fund and effort toward social justice and donated a large sum himself to kick it off.
- They were supported to voice their opinions and concerns. Campus has been putting out messages of increased opportunities to promote and impact change. Follow through will be the real evaluation point down the road.
- Mainly logistical challenges because they were organized by students and athletes. Marches have been large but peaceful with all of administration participating.
- Our University is in full support of peaceful protests. It was very neat to see our football coach and players leading the way on these issues. Protests went fine and all voices were heard.
- We turned the challenge into an opportunity. This allowed us to expand and launch our new indigenous strategic plan.
- The biggest challenge is the crowd gathering of the large groups. It was a peaceful demonstration and social distancing was mostly maintained.
- URC students had mid-summer concerns expressed to the President prior to moving back to campus. A campus wide effort was created and is underway that has produced 31 recommendations that we are moving on.
- Really did not have a challenge because campus police had a presence but it was a “behind the scenes” presence but would allow for a quick response. Campus police handled the situation so that there was no perception of police vs protesters. Campus police demonstrated a supportive role and there was no disruptive behavior.
Results on Testing, Tracing, HVAC & PPE: Needs, Challenges & Lessons
What is the single greatest need you have that prevents you from feeling prepared for reopening this fall?
Summary of the most common needs people identified:
- Additional staffing and resources to meet new cleaning protocols/requirements.
- More definitive information and leadership on the virus from university, local, state, and federal leaders.
- Reliable and timely testing and tracing protocols in the absence of a vaccine!
- Compliance with signage and all virus safety protocols/measures among students and faculty.
- Better clarity and information regarding HVAC systems and how to ensure they are retrofitted properly for reopening.
- Better and more concise/factual communication from the top down across the community.
- Securing additional PPE and addressing concerns about maintaining proper inventory levels.
- How to extract more hours out of each work day……
What is the single greatest challenge you continue to face as you finalize your reopening plans?
Summary of the most common challenges people identified:
- Managing expectations around uncertainties with enrollment numbers, classroom settings, faculty instruction, etc.
- Managing fears of staff, students, faculty, etc.
- No plan is constant, only change is constant. Operational guidance changes frequently.
- PPE acquisition and ensuring inventory levels are adequate.
- Having multiple positive cases of COVID on campus or in the community.
- How to separate fact from fiction as it relates to the virus.
- Finding enough TIME!
- How to handle/manage HVAC upgrades/retrofits, etc.
- How to manage constraints/limitations around space.
- Dealing with staffing shortages and ensuring staff have enough resources.
- Lack of consistent messaging/guidance from top level decision makers.
What is the most important lesson you have learned around COVID-19 that your colleagues could learn from?
Summary of the most common lessons people identified:
- Preparation and flexibility are critical. Always be ready to adapt and change course quickly in this fluid environment.
- Order PPE early and often! Have adequate reserves on hand at all times.
- Take time to develop and operationalize your plans. Focus on operationalizing guidance while the guidance is being developed.
- Develop and play out worst case scenarios as part of your planning process.
- Anchor decisions around science and factual information and then educate your customers accordingly.
- Verify everything and understand what’s real vs. hype around all aspects of planning, HVAC systems, disinfectant protocols, virus safety protocols, etc.
- Be transparent, communicate early and often, and build a solid network of peers who you can trust and share information with.
Big Ten Public Transportation Survey Results
View the Big Ten Public Transportation Survey Results
Provided June 28, 2020 by Adam Lawver, Michigan State University, with assistance from Gordian.
Results from Space Considerations Before, During & After COVID-19
Below are the responses to the APPA’s Space Considerations Before, During & After COVID-19 Survey, which closed on 5/4/2020. For your convenience, we’ve captured both a summary of the responses, as well as provided a complete list of the answers as they were provided to us.
Why will your space be increasing or decreasing (i.e. what are the drivers impacting this)?
Summary of reasons why space will either be increasing or decreasing:
- Space density will decrease which will increase hourly use of space with remote learning
- Telework options for staff will reduce the need for more office space
- Increased online learning options will require more evening/weekend hours
- Leased spaces will be eliminated
- Smaller class sizes will result in larger spaces due to social distancing requirements
- Existing space will be repurposed
- Space won’t increase but will be improved or more efficiently utilized
- Space will be consolidated
- Enrollments have been and will continue to decline for some schools which will make less space inevitable
Some specific examples from the survey responses:
– With de-densification the new norm, the level of instruction and operations must remain high and will need to employ and implement all possible tools (technology, processes, modifications and flexibility). Space optimization will be one of the most effective measures used to approach space utilization reconsiderations.
– Most of our class sizes are small, we only have two classrooms that can seat approximately 100 students. However, our small classes meet in small classrooms. The new normal may require our classes to be spaced out more. We do not have that luxury. We may need to split classes, using the rooms twice as much. Small, private college = very few classes on Friday. We will need to consider hosting more classes on Fridays.
– Social distancing would require more classroom space. Our space utilization of classrooms was already extremely high. We may be looking to reduce seating capacity which would require more sections of courses to be taught.
– Cost to maintain and projected reduction in enrollment will likely require closure of some physical spaces.
– Space utilization may be increased as opportunities are pursued to decommission building(s) and consolidate.
– Our campus plans to bring students back in the fall and change our classroom and class labs to accommodate smaller size classes due to the pandemic. That means we may have to increase the amount of space being used for teaching. Remodeling rooms and/or reclassifying space to meet our needs. Even with a potential enrollment drop, our space may increase because we will need to spread out for social distancing.
– To comply with social distancing guidelines, we have discussed cutting class sizes by half. This would mean more sections, which mean more spaces need to be scheduled. This would produce less downtime in classrooms, creating a fully booked schedule throughout the day and evening.
– We think that we will start decreasing the amount of space we are using, by using the opportunity for more staff to work remotely. This may let us reduce the amount of leased space in favor of owned space. This will allow us to find some more space for classrooms and labs, which may need to have more square footage per seat, to allow more seat-distancing.
– Space utilization will adjust. Faculty and staff may continue to work part-time from home. Residence halls and classroom occupancies will adjust to maintain social distancing. While we don’t anticipate a decrease in research funds, lab occupancy may also be adjusted. Classes will likely be scheduled more hours per day to add sections to offset reduced enrollments.
– I think in the very short term, we will be using less space. Within the next year, though, as we try to bring our students back to campus, we’ll be making use of more space, even though there’s not more to distribute. I think this means we’ll be holding smaller classes in larger spaces well into what was formally considered off-hours. We may also be prioritizing spaces formerly used by staff or non-instructional use for classes and encouraging people who can work from home to continue to do so. In a sense, we will be leveraging people’s home offices as an expansion of the campus until we return to a time where gathering in large groups is a reality.
– We will increase utilization and decrease overall footprint. Drivers will be: 1. Academic Enterprise Re-imagined- centralization, combination of programs, or elimination; 2. Digital Transformation that enables process improvement and a connected portfolio that reduces silos and duplication; 3. Space Principles that prioritize space for function, not people, removal of room type and scheduling rights that open up portfolio, centralized scheduling tools that transparently show all that is available, and focused energy on portfolio reduction to limit capital and operational costs.
– Enrollment is already in a decline, so making class sizes smaller will actually “right size” university space utilization, as well as, faculty load requirements (i.e. not just 10 – 2 classes).
– We have several private offices assigned to one faculty member that are grossly underutilized. We are considering moving to private office sharing with assigned schedules for 2-3 people. This still provides private office time while on campus but can be utilized by another staff member on off schedule days. This will also allow us to decompress existing shared spaces where people are working in close proximity (less than 6 feet). As leases expire, we can potentially release space back to the landlord or other departments. Conference rooms will decrease in utilization as we anticipate practicing virtual meetings for the long term. Classrooms are still to be determined. Academic medical clinic space utilization has remained the same. However, we have begun to reconfigure numerous spaces to spread out patient waiting area, isolation rooms, etc.
How has your specific space plan been altered/impacted by the pandemic?
Summary of how specific space plans have been altered/impacted by the pandemic:
- Plans are unknown/unchanged/or there is too much uncertainty still to know
- Plans have changed significantly
- Plans are currently on hold/suspended
- Budget uncertainties have impacted current plans
- Construction has either slowed, paused, or stopped
- Current space allocation is being reconsidered/revised due to social distancing requirements
- Rethinking design standards for offices and classrooms in particular, in order to accommodate social distancing/remote working/disinfecting surfaces etc.
Some specific examples from the survey responses:
– Renewed commitment to conditions assessments and as-built records and accelerate sustainability and resiliency goals. We need to re-build better, not the same.
– Projects have been evaluated for funding sources and prioritized or deferred.
– Distancing requirements have now changed the programming, adding more multi-modal abilities and capabilities. Inclusion of inherent flexibility into the space.
– We are just now looking at the implications of COVID-19 on our space plan. It will probably mean reallocation of some of our spaces, delay in improving other spaces, and high demand for still other spaces.
-Long term, we are in the process of updating our campus master plan, so the campus’ new master plan will be developed with awareness of the pandemic’s effects. In the short term, physical distancing requirements will nullify classroom utilization targets our campus has been striving to improve.
– We have standards for space allocation for classroom, lab, and office space. The impact of COVID-19 is under evaluation for all aspects. In the short term, the capacity of the spaces will be significantly reduced. Plans for alterations of space include flexibility to migrate to increasing occupancy levels as gathering limits change.
– We were just in the process of reducing private (faculty & staff) office sizes and increasing the amount of open collaborative workspace. Now we are examining if this will work in a separation/social distancing future. This is coupled with a re-examination of space due to the fact that more staff are actually able to work remotely. And do we really need more conference rooms?
– Our capital program is now focused on completing projects in construction. Projects in design will be put on hold after completing current design phase.
– One large new academic building is going forward but remaining upgrades/alterations are on hold unless critical to safety, health or if continued delay of these projects will impact integrity of the space.
– Nothing has changed with our current space plan, but it is complicating our future new building and renovation plans. The complications are arising because it is more difficult to move people around at this time and also because budgetary uncertainty makes larger projects more difficult to launch.
– The space use policy, particularly for shared offices and workstations, will be altered. This will drive the size of new facilities in planning, layout of existing workstations, and repurposing of common areas like conference rooms and break out spaces as designated touch down spaces.
Results from Grounds/Landscaping Survey
Below are the responses to the APPA’s Grounds/Landscaping Survey which closed on 4/17/20. For your convenience, we’ve captured both a summary of the responses, as well as provided a complete list of the answers as they were provided to us.
Click here for an infographic of other questions answered in this survey.
What are your plans to ramp-up grounds/landscaping services and staffing with the onset of mowing season?
Summary of ways respondents plan to ramp up services/staffing:
- No change in staffing either because campuses are already at full staffing or have enough staff to handle mowing
- Will plan to bring staffing back up to full staffing levels
- Hiring additional staffing (mostly contractors because the unknown is student labor)
- Implementing modified work schedules in work zones to maintain social distancing
- Prioritizing areas – no ramping up will occur
- Staff will be required to work overtime
- Mowing will be minimized where possible
- Limited mowing/no staffing until the shelter in place order is lifted
- Ramping up slowly in phases using small rotating teams of staffing
- Mowing less frequently (i.e., every other week)
- Expanding work hours daily and/or adding work days to the week with EXISTING staff
- Lowering grounds/landscaping care standards in certain non-priority areas
- Cross training staff in other FM departments to assist with mowing duties
- Focus on mowing to the exclusion of other grounds services during this season
- Using less fertilizer/limited irrigation to reduce growth and eliminating other grounds services
Some specific examples from the survey responses:
– Our objectives are campus safety and security and keeping things alive. Irrigation will likely ramp up to a minimum only to keep things alive. We might add one full-time regular staff person into our rotation who is currently not working. We will prioritize only the most visible spaces and develop a strategy for prioritizing the rest.
– Mowing is done without edging or line trimming. Areas in turf requiring line trimming are starting to be treated with Roundup to reduce the need for this practice. Edging will be done as needed when grass is creeping on to walkways and over curbs. I may try applying Roundup to the ground exposed by newly edged turf to reduce edging at the cost of possible ‘haloing’. Out of a grounds team of ten, three (including the supervisor) are coming in to work. The two team members working with me stated they would be too stir-crazy staying at home. As of yesterday, I have received interest from additional team members to work one day a week to mow the campus turf.
– One approach is the implementation of growth regulators on our larger turf areas. This will aide in stalling growth in turf and reduce man hours in mowing these areas and will allow for overtime of maintenance activities.
– Working on getting County approval to allow at least enough mowing to prevent weeds and allow proper operation of irrigation sprinklers.
– We recognize that we will not begin mowing until well into the mowing season which means that grass clippings will be an issue. We will have a plan to identify priority areas and develop a mowing schedule. Planning for removal of excess clippings. Planning on transitioning some staff back to edging and mulching. Possible hiring of temporary staff to help with weeding.
– Will not add staffing. We have been able to recognize efficiencies gained by not having students on campus and not having to schedule around outdoor events.
– We are struggling to figure this out. We typically use inmate labor, students, and temp employees. Inmates are not an option. Students are not on campus, so the pool is not there to hire from…..
– We will have people from each crew (Athletics, Gardens, Arborist, and Pest control) rotate to help out with mowing and weed control.
– We will prioritize mowing, edging, spraying, and bed management over regular pruning, trimming, mulch, planting, and preventive maintenance.
– Mowing season has already begun. Operating with all grounds employees, at 50% (every other week). Have designated some areas “no mow”, some areas “reduced mow”, and trimming/string trimming is being deferred. Gardening activities (pruning, transplanting, etc.) postponed. Tree work only that is essential (hazard/safety concern).
– Utilize essential employees that are losing hours because their primary work has come to a standstill (i.e. dining staff).
– There are no plans as the future is uncertain. What we have done is set a schedule that will allow us to maintain all of our turf and a manageable condition until such time as we can return to full staff hours.
– Proposing to administration and union leadership, creative scenarios depending on speculative executive orders from our Governor. For example, ask for volunteers, decentralize everyone, no common time clocks, staggered hours, stage equipment at decentralized locations, reduce mowing acreage, reduce mowing frequency, and apply plant growth regulators.
– Pushing mowing back to a 10 day rotation and trimming to a 3 week rotation.
– Keep up with the priority areas and tasks and hit reduced priority tasks at a reduced frequency.
– Bi-weekly service focusing on essential needs only.
Are there any special tactics/protocols that have been implemented by the grounds/landscaping unit to cope with the current situation?
Summary of ways respondents are employing special tactics/protocols:
- Offering flexibility to deal with family dynamics during the work week (young children not able to be in daycare, children being home schooled virtually, illness in the family, etc.)
- Providing ways to socially distance while working
- Offering reduced work schedules in addition to flexible work schedules
- Allowing staff to use their own personal vehicle or providing each staff person with their own vehicle that is assigned to them daily (same goes for equipment)
- Rotating shifts/split shifts/teams of two/staggered shifts
- Providing remote training opportunities during off weeks
- Offering increased availability of PPE
- Increasing the level of disinfection/sanitation of equipment and all touch points
- Providing more frequent communications and ways to communicate have expanded
Some specific examples from the survey responses:
Precautions for groundskeepers: Any employee who is or may be sick is required to stay home. This includes anyone who has a sick person in their home.
- We have ensured that we have an abundance of PPE (personal protective equipment) and antibacterial supplies and are urging their constant use.
- Every surface in our offices and workstations is being disinfected continuously.
- All of our trucks and equipment have been equipped with disinfectant supplies and are being cleaned continuously.
- All employees are mandated to travel with windows down to increase ventilation.
- All overseas and non-essential travel for any of our employees and leadership has stopped.
- We are limiting crew meetings to be outside where better ventilation and social distancing can be achieved. We are also following the Best Practices laid out by the PLNA (Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association).
- Implement daily all-hands communications to inform, educate and reinforce SOPs, BMPs and possible next steps.
- Relax attendance policies to allow any employee who is uncomfortable working to stay home and use PTO. This policy is dependent upon whether the grounds person is contracted or a Jefferson employee.
- Train crew personnel to be able to respond to questions from the public in a professional manner.
- Enforce cleaning and sanitation protocols for all common spaces including trucks and equipment.
- Stagger crew start times and coverage days to minimize congregation at office/shop locations
- Limit crews to 1 person per truck.
- Assign one truck to one crew and when necessary sanitize between rotations.
- Minimize the use of shared equipment and tools
- Wear gloves as much as possible removing only to eat, drink, or touch your face.
- If you must work in close proximity to another for a short period of time (i.e. lifting a tree ball into a hole) wear a face mask.
- Be prepared to shut down at any moment.
- Post and follow the gov’t guidelines.
- Designate restroom facilities and schedule cleanings multiple times per shift.
– Social distancing at lunch and breaks by staying 6 ft. away from each other. Eating and meeting outside do keep germs out of the building. Wiping down steering wheels, handles, keys, switches, counters, etc. at the end of each day with Lysol. Operationally, we are in the transition zone and most of our campus is Bermuda grass over seeded with perennial ryegrass. Normally we would wait until May/June to chemically remove the ryegrass, but we started 3 weeks ago. This will help us keep up with our cutting cycle because the Bermuda grass is not growing rapidly now. We also plan to hold off any Bermuda grass fertilizer until the ban is lifted. We also have sprayed, and will continue to spray, growth regulators on our tall fescue lawns as well as hedges that require pruning.
– Emptied and covered over half of trash and recycle cans throughout campus to reduce need of staff spot checking cans and food rotting to attract rodents and raccoons.
– Landcare had an order of Spring flowers that became a surplus they could not plant due to reduced operations. So, our Zero Waste Program Manager offered a flower sale to the public conducted over social media. Response was incredible! Close to 500 orders arrived in about 60 minutes – essentially sold-out in 15 minutes. Flower pick-up times were scheduled to 15 minute increments that would follow social distancing standards. This was a teamwork win made possible by people working from home, the ReUse Warehouse, the Landcare Offices and in the nursery. In the end over 250 flower orders were filled with over 1,000 flats of pansies and bulb pots totaling almost $11,000.
– We stagger arrival and departure times to reduce the number of employees in our shop at a time. We also spread teams out and into individual vehicles to reduce interaction. We’ve reduced high risk work (like using a chainsaw) to only emergency response to lessen chances of injury.
– OSU LANDSCAPE SERVICES COVID-19 PREVENTION AND CONTROL PROTOCOLS Landscape Services is following Covid-19 Guidelines published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
– Additional protocols have been put into action pertaining to sanitation of workspaces and common areas:
- Employees are strongly encouraged to frequently wash hands with soap and water.
- Common areas are cleaned daily by Custodial Services.
- All work and lunch tables are being wiped down with healthcare grade Clorox bleach wipes daily
- Computer keyboards common office equipment and time clocks are wiped down weekly.
- In addition to custodial cleaning, breakroom floors are being mopped weekly.
- Door handles and light switches are wiped down daily using Clorox wipes.
- Steering wheels door handles, shift levers, etc. are being wiped with disinfecting wipes daily.
– Meetings in smaller groups, training on how/when to use PPE, physical distancing in vehicles (2 ppl in 4-person cart, 1 person in 2-person carts), consistent sanitation of tools and machines, empowering frontline managers to make decisions for the safety of their teams, open and regular communication, find alternatives for high-contact points (ice machines, water jugs, etc.), encouraging suggestions on how we can operate safer and more effectively.
– We have developed a Pandemic SOP based on CDC Recommendations. Supervisors monitor and discus twice a day with staff about SOP protocols. Health screening (How do you feel questions) performed at beginning and end of shift. We create clean zones – Wipe down vehicle touch points at beginning and end of shift. Wipe down tools at beginning and end of shift. Social Distancing – 6′ apart. Masks for when indoors. One staff member per vehicle or mode of transportation. Staff are to use their own equipment and limit the sharing of equipment. Running two rotations of skeleton crews. They work every other week.
How are you handling grounds/landscaping staffing with a shelter-in-place order?
Summary of ways respondents are handling a shelter in place order:
- Offering modified or flexible work schedules so staff can manage work/family dynamics easier
- Offering more flexibility around telework from home
- Social distancing is strictly enforced
- Staff are designated as essential for critical services such as: emergencies, snow removal, trash/litter, utility excavation, essential mowing, drainage, infrastructure/asset protection, emergency preventive maintenance, and inclement weather clean-up
- In addition to the services listed above, almost everyone under a shelter in place order is conducting regular and routine inspections daily
Some specific examples from the survey responses:
– While all Facilities staff have an essential designation, it is for only essential activities. In our case the work only includes the following:
• Cold patch repair of drives as needed for safety
• Inspection for outdoor pest control
• Inspection and cleaning as required for storm drains to maintain flow, particularly after rain/storm events
• Inspection and removal as needed of downed trees/debris due storm events
• Provide general services for moving/delivery of essential equipment/inventory
• Periodic sweeping of sidewalks and parking areas to remove geese droppings
• Replace outdoor lamp bulbs per reports from Security
• Respond to any other campus emergency as required.
– Landscape work that mitigates risk is considered essential such as flail mowing for fire mitigation, tree and shrub pruning for safety and security. Pest control is another.
– We have 2 hospitals and clinics running to support cleaning, disinfecting and littering. So most of our work is essential. We do not do any work related to aesthetics.
– We divided the staff into two teams to minimize employees on campus. We have dropped services from weekly to every other week. We are essential employees only in that we are trying to remove debris and maintain a clean building for our COVID-19 researchers. We also need to have an eye on the entire campus while it is empty.
– We do have about 200 students sheltered in place on campus. This approach is in keeping with State guidelines on essential work.
– Our HR department has also provided letters/memos to law enforcement for all essential staff to have with them for commuting purposes if necessary, which they can pair with their essential employee designation letter (re-issued at beginning of pandemic by University leadership, specific to the pandemic circumstances).
– We’re only providing staffing for essential services like emptying trash cans, litter and disinfecting outdoor touch points like handrails, etc. Crews have been split up, and they are working different days and practicing social distancing from each other and other staff and what remaining students are on campus.
– They are essential, but we have reduced on-site staff to no more than 6 or 7 per day for four days. Construction repair, Pest Control, Mechanics, Arborist, Welding, Storm water management and Irrigation staff are on 24/7 on-call status. Administrative staff monitor emergency and other work tasks from home and issue e-mail or phone alerts to management for response needs.
– All facilities staff are deemed essential. As such, we have documentation if there were any real enforcement of the shelter in place orders. Allowing telework for those who can do it has greatly reduced staffing on campus, all classes are now online, so that’s eliminated student contact and reduced faculty contact. We’ve shortened the work week for all essential staff, and staggered the work week so that all days are covered with minimal essential staff on campus.
What are the most pressing challenges that your grounds/landscaping unit is currently trying to solve?
Summary of the most pressing challenges respondents face right now:
- Overwhelming sense of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future which is unknown at this time
- Concern around continuing to maintain safety practices and continue social distancing
- Challenges around the one person per vehicle requirement for social distancing
- Concern over PPE shortages
- Fear of contracting COVID-19 at home or work
- Managing family challenges (childcare issues, illness, children learning at home, etc.) that impact work
- Concern over the ability to recruit temporary employees (student labor is the big concern here)
- Concerns with keeping up during the mowing season (this is directly related to the item above)
- Uncertainty around fall enrollment numbers
- How to keep campus grounds groomed with greatly reduced staffing levels
- How to handle budget reductions/restrictions
- How to balance workload demands with staffing shortages
- Concern over impending layoffs/furloughs/freezes
- Escalating morale issues
- How to keep up with mowing/weeding/pest control and all the other growth issues that come with Spring
- Concerns around reducing or stopping all beautification/landscaping efforts
- Concern around keeping up expected service levels (the item above is a component in this factor)
- Concern over having to move in to “damage mitigation” mode exclusively instead of focusing on beautification/landscaping
Some specific examples from the survey responses:
– Determining when will this threat end. Trying to determine if contractor schedules will be filled and what to plan for. Going blindly in to the future where we have never been before. How to handle personnel challenges as we anticipate the next 12-18 months. What will the university look like in the Fall? The shortened timeframe before move-in (will there be a move-in)?
– Convincing administration that landscapes, fields, weed control, etc. still need to continue as it will cost more to get them back in shape if we stop. Keeping morale high as folks see their peers being furloughed. Helping some understand why they are “essential” when campus seems like a ghost town.
– Trying to keep campus as respectable looking/as well maintained as we can with only 50 percent of our work force on campus each week while protecting the health of all. We are maintaining a 400 acre campus with a staff of 7 full time employees and a couple of student employees. The rotational schedule will be a significant challenge moving forward into this year.
– Planning for essential only services. This will mean no beautification; only mowing, weeding and maintenance. We hope to get more long term work out of the way as it is allowed under the restrictions.
– Defining what core work is necessary and what work is nice to have given a reduced daily workforce. Operating on a reduced operating budget.
– How to provide the required emergency work, the regular maintenance work and the extensive seasonal horticultural care needed to maintain the long term safety and viability of a healthy landscape within the limited scope of allowed work while keeping staffers healthy mentally and physically.
– We are a unionized workforce with a labor contract. The labor contract was written for campus closures with snow events in mind, not prolonged pandemics. This has required discussion with the union as to how to allow staff to return to work to maintain our grounds without the university paying triple time.
– Deferring spring maintenance and seasonal bedding plant change outs. Staff may not be back in time to plant summer displays. Weeds are starting to proliferate. Some staff are feeling that they aren’t able to contribute because they have to remain at home.
– Concern for team members’ mental health and financial realities as they go into unpaid statuses. Maintaining the campus aesthetic that our students, staff, faculty, and visitors have come to expect during the growing season with minimal staff. Ensuring we can start up again in short order once we get the green light if/when the ground/landscaping staff isn’t furloughed?
– Weighing justification to continue regular fertilizer applications, pre-emergent herbicides and growth regulators. Developing a recovery plan for when Stay At Home restrictions are lifted. Example: How do we bring back the full team and continue to protect our people and ability to service campus. What does that look like?
– Morale. Facility people are planners that create and work from schedules. This is difficult as nothing is able to be planned beyond a few days. We are capitalizing on having a closed campus but it is still winter and weather dictates much of what grounds can do.
– Maintenance of sport fields. Letting conditions or standards decline can be a huge financial impact after the COVID-19. Weed control of landscape areas. We have also been putting down pre-emergent to help control weed growth. We are having our limited staff go through sections and hand pull large flower weeds.
– The campus has become a “public park” for individuals practicing social distancing in the town to exercise and walk. We’re balancing the expectations of the grounds care standard with the reality of a reduced on site workforce.
1) Weeds grow better than the grass when not treated.
2) Everything is growing and we cannot mow it, weed wipe it etc…
3) Some staff do not want come in.
Keeping up with campus expectations using reduced staff. Trying to abide by social distancing and following essential personnel guidelines, when they change often.
Currently wondering how we are going to cope with planting all the material we order; ordinarily this is done by a small army of volunteers in one day.
Given the current challenge, what are some ways you are keeping morale high among your grounds/landscaping staff?
Summary of ways respondents are keeping morale high:
- Maintaining frequent communication through phone calls/emails/Zoom meetings
- Offering paid leave/hazard pay/overtime for regular work hours/stipend or bonuses for working 20+ hours a week
- Several stated they were just happy to have a job at this point
- Reducing work hours while still providing full pay
- Offering rotating or flex schedules
- Ensuring safety of workers and providing plenty of PPE options
- Allowing staff to catch up on sidelined projects or choose their own projects
- Buying staff lunches or snacks regularly
- Sending staff personal “Thank You” notes from other department heads
- Offering more online personal and professional development training options
- Several stated they would rather be at work than at home doing nothing
Some specific examples from the survey responses:
– Recognition that this is an historical event both at work and at home. Providing guidance that ourmandate before, now and after the pandemic is and always will be the provision of safe, secure, clean and healthy learning, living, social and living environments. Confirming that we are professionals and must balance between operational delivery and continuous improvement. After ensuring assigned on-campus tasks are completed, and most importantly in consultation with each employee, management is assigning each employee to pre-pandemic approved continuous improvement and/or employee engagement projects. Feedback from employees is that they are grateful to be acknowledged as contributing to our mandate in extraordinary ways in an extraordinary time.
– We do shout out photos featuring the university staff website of projects that Landscape and Grounds is doing and recognize the staff who are continuing to do the work. We have days were the director buys ice cream and all the fixings for social distancing socials across the shop. The biggest way to improve morale is to communicate with facts from CDC or the local health department and provide information they can share with their family about the virus. Trust is the biggest morale builder.
– Staying mission focused (serving students and research), leadership meets with small groups regularly, leadership fostering open and honest conversation, providing meal cards, providing consistent and relevant PPE, SOP and training, doing small remodeling projects/creative projects, cross-training skills, focusing on the beauty of nature around us, fostering kindness and understanding between team members, providing guidance to frontline managers on having difficult conversations.
– Having them assist on move-outs to help open up apartments for medical staff, etc. thus helping them feel they are contributing to fighting the pandemic.
– We are able to complete jobs which were challenging before, because of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. These include street sweeping and pothole repair. We are also able, due to decreased client demand, able to spend more time in the greenhouse to prepare plant material for the upcoming season. Being able to complete these tasks with little (or less) time pressure greatly increases job satisfaction for the staff.
– Walking campus every day – visiting folks working across campus- saying hello and thanking them sincerely for their hard work and telling them how much I appreciate them.
– Bi-weekly briefings for ‘transparency’ with shout outs for exceptional work.
– Being a small institution, our Grounds staff is typically pulled in many directions and is not able to fully dedicate themselves to traditional grounds/landscaping duties. The Grounds crew has been on campus and able to perform landscaping duties (while appropriately socially distancing) for a larger portion of the day than they otherwise would be able to do. This fact alone has increased morale. Grounds staff are also able to watch webinars and research other best practices while working from home. So while COVID-19 has impacted the College’s ability to complete many projects, it has enabled our grounds crew to get ahead in some areas that they would otherwise would not have had time to do.
– Our staff recognizes the state mandate for work at home has a caveat that the work CAN be done from home. Obviously, grounds and landscaping cannot. We are being liberal with vacation requests, and otherwise keeping folks focused on jobs we can’t usually get to when customers are on campus. For example, we are rebuilding the softball infield surface, which the staff has wanted to do for a while, but was unable to schedule.
– Walk the campus about every other day and stop and ask how they are. Walk to the shops about every other morning and say hello – at a distance of course. The University has been a bit slow to put out information so as soon as I know something I take it to them directly. I want them to hear it from me not some second hand source.
– Tackling jobs that are not usually possible at this time of year. Some are never possible due to campus population being around. Parking lots are empty so we’re able to clean up winter debris completely with no cars in the way. This gives staff a sense of accomplishment and some satisfaction seeing a job done well.
– Providing liberal leave and allowing up to 10 hours of self-guided training away from campus. Staying connected with them on a personal level. Checking in on them and their family’s well-being personally.
– The crew seem to be enjoying the fact that their efforts are longer lasting given that no one is on campus to mess things up. No feet trampling the grass, hardly any liter or trash to patrol, and they can blow or trim without having to stop for people passing by nearly as often. The campus has hardly ever looked better…just so few here to appreciate it…
– Routine Zoom meetings and morale-building emails to ensure regular communication and transparency. Calling team members just to check in. Showing our team they are essential by providing guidance and strategic restructuring to ensure business continuity.
– I do share some of the many funny COVID-19 memes coming out there, as humor is a great way to deal with a really bleak situation.
– Bluetooth headphones and three way calls, so we can work at a distance but still feel like we’re working together. We usually share jokes and music while pulling weeds and trimming bushes.
– We have created bi-weekly packets of educational materials for “work at home” opportunities within our field. ISA arborist reading material, planting and pruning material, turf care material… etc. We also are offering a chance for people to get certified (or recertified) with pesticide applicator licenses. We try to reach out with texting and encourage them to do the same with each other. We had a “parking lot mini-meeting” during the last packet pick up, and it was just good to see everybody. – Allow them to shop for groceries early in the morning before the grocery shelves are empty without charging leave time. Allowing them to stay home and take care of their own or family member health issues without charging leave. Have a fund set aside by managers to provide a one-time cash award for those who lost a second income.
How do you plan to ramp up grounds/landscaping services and staffing after COVID-19?
Summary of ways respondents plan to ramp up after COVID-19:
- Move back to a full week schedule
- Move back to full staffing
- No change/Unknown/Review as needed/Will remain as-is
- Staffing levels will be determined by budgets/financial impacts
- Continue social distancing measures by retaining staggered/split/rotating/phased shifts
- Continue to provide adequate PPE
- Continue with communicating digitally and minimizing close contact
- Will add temporary staff/student workers/contractors (a lot concern was expressed around hiring students and whether temp workers would be available to work)
- Higher priority areas (i.e. athletics) will be contracted out because there is too much backlog for potentially reduced staffing to catch up on quickly
- Standards of care will be lowered
- Address all the neglected areas during the pandemic
- Wait and see and follow federal/state/local guidance
- Focus on and determine the top priorities first
- Re-evaluate priorities
- Reduce plantings
- Work to reduce new work requests and event prep/set up
Some specific examples from the survey responses:
– I would imagine it will be phased in based on the orders from the governor or president. Start with the most pressing issues that face us. Trash, graffiti, transient camps. Then look at protecting the most vulnerable plant material. This would be plant material that has not fully established yet or is highly exposed to the elements. Pruning will only be done if there is a safety issue such as blocking a sign or clearance on a sidewalk. Turf cultural practices will be reduced. Aeration and over seeding will take a back seat and only be done in high viability and high use areas. Mowing will stay reduced as well.
– We will most likely bring staff back on site but not hold group meetings for a while. We will ask all staff to practice social distancing, wipe down tools and equipment, etc. We will concentrate on basic maintenance to bring landscapes back to acceptable levels such as weeding, litter pickup, etc. After that, we will try to install any seasonal displays as time allows and then defer any areas we don’t get to until the next season.
– The ramp up will include remedial work to recover those areas of the campus left without care. We will combine crews for short bursts to do this remedial work and we are exploring automation to assist with some work where possible.
– It’s anticipated that there will be furloughs and dismissals commensurate with the losses in revenues and enrollment. It is anticipated that no ramp up will be possible and that we will be having to make due with even less staffing than present.
– No hiring, no seasonal, replacing open slots and no increased spending on contractor support. It will take all year to catch up. We cut out all flower plantings and any other improvements. – It depends if we outsource the planting bed maintenance. If not outsourced, we will need to focus staff resources on addressing beds in a priority order (most publicly visible to least publicly visible). Mowing will be regulated chemically with herbicide and growth regulators.
Results from APPA’s FM-Related Survey on COVID-19 Campus Procedures
Below are the responses to the APPA FM-Related Survey on COVID-19 Campus Procedures which closed 4/2/20. For your convenience, we’ve captured both a summary of the responses, as well as provided a complete list of the answers as they were provided to us.
Click here for an infographic snapshot of the “yes/no” responses that were also gathered in this survey.
How are you currently screening your staff? What specific processes or procedures have you put in place?
Summary of ways respondents are currently screening staff:
- Temperature checks
- Self-monitoring/screening for symptoms
Summary of specific processes or procedures respondents have put in place:
- Have you traveled internationally within the last 14 days?
- Are you showing any symptoms today? (e.g. Fever equal to or greater than 100.4°F, Coughing, Shortness of Breath)
- Are you residing with any individual who has a fever (equal to or greater than 100.4°F), is presumed positive, or in a 14-day quarantine?
If ANY of the above questions are responded with a “Yes”:
-Employee: Please follow up with your Supervisor
-Non‐Employee: Please follow up with Administrator
Sample Screening Questions for Symptoms:
• Temperature above 100° F
• Difficulty breathing
• Cough, nasal congestion or sore throat that is different than normal
baseline and with symptoms that are not mild or infrequent
What processes and procedures are you using to stagger shifts?
Summary of how respondents are implementing processes and procedures to stagger shifts:
- Split crews
- Skeleton crews
- Reduced staffing
- Reduced hours
- Staggered shifts
- Teams of 2 practicing social distancing
- Alternating staff on different days
- Shift adjustments to reduce interaction during clocking in and out
- Rolling shifts
- Staff assigned to specific buildings
- Split workforce (half work from home/half on call)
- “One day on/One day off” rotating schedules
Detailed Accounts of Processes and Procedures to Stagger Shifts:
- Our physical campuses are closed, with academic offerings now online. Access to the three physical campuses is controlled/limited to one or two doors per campus only. Security manages access using lists of management-authorized critical employees (lists shared weekly with union leadership). For shifts, we have a three-tiered set-up. Tier 1 – Skeletal manning during normal hours of operation of the plant and utilities (one operator, one electrician, one controls technician and one manager). Tier 2 – a call-in capability for mechanical and electrical coordinators plus limited numbers of plumbers, carpenters, and handymen. Tier 3 – call-in remainder of team subject to health guidelines, as well as essential contracted services. For custodial services, we have added a Touch Crew (wearing a different colored shirt so they stand out) who focus on hard touch points (elevator buttons, door handles, hand rails, table tops etc.) but day/evening/night shifts remain as normal to allow for deep and more frequent cleaning/sanitization to hospital standards. Custodial services may shift depending on duration of campus closures.
- We’ve implemented a rotating schedule in which only a core group of operations & maintenance staff are on campus on any given day to provide essential inspection, monitoring, cleaning, preventative maintenance, repairs and oversight of contractors. Remaining staff are at home on-call if required for an emergency. Staff at home are provided take-home work and online training assignments where possible. Everyone rotates between on-campus work and at-home on-call. The percentage of staff on campus on any given day varies by crew depending on the crew size and nature of work. Most trades crews have 25% working on campus. Custodial is targeting 50% as on-campus activity is significantly reduced. All staff are currently being paid full-time salary.
- I manage the Central Shops. Paint/Carpentry/Electrical & Plumbing. 48 employees. We stagger start times from 6:00 – 8:30 in all shops to maintain social distancing. We have taken the checkout keys back to shops to avoid congregation in the common hallways where keys were accessed. We communicate via mobile devices in the field and not morning tailgate meetings.
- Our entire business office (call center, work center) is working remotely from home. (8 employees) The “trades” have one person on campus on weekdays. This is rotated through the shop. An on-call technician is also available after hours. Custodial services are limiting their services to 2 hours a day in the buildings that are opened and only one person works in each building.
- We have created two separate teams: trades and staff that will never interface. Most of the staff are working remotely, but on-call for emergencies. Individuals are assigned routes to walk in order to perform walk throughs of high voltage substations, buildings, mechanical rooms, and roofs to ensure there are no equipment failures or leaks.
- We have a day and evening shift. The staff is only allowed to work on one person jobs. Only one person in a vehicle. No commuting together to work. Staggered time in lunch rooms, or not even going back to lunch rooms. Our stores are locked down. Only stores personnel are allowed. The main plant is off limits to everyone except the people that work in the plant.
Which key supplies are you experiencing shortages on and how are you addressing these shortages?
Summary of key supplies respondents are experiencing shortages on (listed in no particular order):
- Hand sanitizer
- N95 masks/dust masks
- Tyvek suits/gowns
- Wipes: Clorox/3M #15/Purell/Lysol/Oxivir
- Disinfectants: Clorox 360, Oxivir, Virex, Re-Juv-Nal, GoJo, 2000ml Lysol, End Bacc II
- Gloves (Nitrile etc.)
- Spray Nozzles
- Fogging Machines
- Electrostatic Sprayers
- Paper Goods
- Variety of construction related materials
Summary of how shortages are being addressed:
We are monitoring the EPA list of approved chemicals that is linked on the CDC website. In addition to researching online for available vendors/supplies, we are also working closely with our regular vendors. The EPA list opened some new avenues for consideration, e.g. veterinary disinfectants.
It has been nearly impossible to get hand sanitizer. Instead, we put together “hand wash kits” for those without routine access to a sink. These kits include a Ziploc bag with a small bottle of hand soap (that can be refilled) and some paper towels, plus a 1-gallon cooler that can be filled with water so that hands can be washed outside the truck or van. (When summer comes, we will re-purpose the coolers for ice water or Gatorade!)
Hand sanitizer is in extremely short supply. Our supplier can’t give a good estimate on when it will be available. We encourage all staff to wash hands instead of using sanitizer because it is the preferred method to avoid COVID-19. Disinfectant wipes (30 second kill) are also difficult to obtain. So, we use our standard quarantine disinfectant (10 minute dwell). Our standard nitrile gloves are also hard to find but we’ve been able to supplement with food service gloves.
Wipes and masks are short supply. We were using Oxivir but supplies are on back order. We trained all personnel in the use of pest control mist/foggers by our pest control partner. The Sterilab product used in these devices which is 90% alcohol, quickly sanitizes areas. We have one currently lent to us as well as additional cases of the product. We have purchased two more electric “foggers” arriving this week from our pest control provider. We have also purchased numerous spray bottles to provide departments with a sanitizer and this will be used by facilities as they’re cleaning areas on campus. If Oxivir is low, mix 9 parts water to one part Clorox. Instead of 30 seconds, the Clorox solution takes 5 minutes to activate. Buildings are in lockdown. Use of badge is the only way to obtain access to buildings.
Disinfectant, hand sanitizer, and non-latex gloves are very difficult to find. To minimize impact, once spaces have been cleaned, they are locked and a sign is posted to alert potential users that they cannot access these areas. So far, based on the campus being fully online with a stay at home order throughout the state, this has been effective.
Click here to see the detailed and unedited responses to this question.
How are you specifically addressing and handling any mental health issues connected to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Summary of ways that respondents are specifically addressing and handling any mental health issues connected to the COVID-19 pandemic:
University Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). EAPs are programs that include a network of services to help you and your household family members cope with everyday life issues.
Secondary Response: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Ways to Constantly Communicate:
- Free meetings via Zoom with our Employee Assistance Vendor. Free one-on-one sessions via Zoom with qualified caregivers from our Employee Assistance Vendor. Weekly Town Hall/Q&A Meetings with the President, his cabinet, and other key personnel. Zoom groups for socializing that meet regularly and are focused on a certain topic, like how to work from home with kids or how to stay healthy at home.
- Daily “coffee meetings” via Zoom. Also, we are conducting weekly team meetings to allow open discussion of COVID-19 concerns. Additionally, I’ve directed all leaders to reach out to their individual team members on at least an every-other-day basis. Outreach is specifically to include those on any category of leave without pay (e.g. maternity and paternity leave).
- In addition to existing counseling programs, we have a wellness center offering online wellness classes. More frequent discussion in zoom meetings about how each of us is doing. In-person small group sessions with our senior leader, HR, MD, and EHS. Virtual town hall meetings with senior administrators and open forum meetings on working from home.
- University counseling centers/Mental health centers
- Free external counseling services
- Myriad mental health resources
- 24 hour help/hotlines
How are you managing outside contractors on campus?
Summary of how respondents are managing outside contractors on campus:
All CDC/OSHA and state/local/provincial guidelines must be followed and adhered to.
Risk mitigation/safety plans and protocols around COVID-19 specifically are being required. These plans/protocols may be prepared by either the contractors or campus staff.
Capital project personnel on a campus may collect plans/protocols from the contractors and will have either project managers or general maintenance staff on campus manage compliance according to agreed upon terms. In some cases, contractors will develop the plans and self-manage their crew.
Risk Mitigation Practices:
- Social distancing (6 ft. apart currently) is being followed.
- Crew and staff schedules are staggered to limit exposure
- Crews are required to check in with facilities staff or campus police and show valid ID’s. As part of the check-in process, temperature checks and/or visual checks are mandatory.
- Crew movement has been restricted by keeping many areas on campus locked and secure to minimize risk. Entrances/exits have been greatly reduced. Those areas that are left open, are monitored closely and cleaned regularly. (People have devised multiple ways to determine where contractor activity has taken place in a building to facilitate disinfection quickly.)
- Crew and staff levels have been reduced to “essential” workers.
- Self-isolation is encouraged
- PPE is provided and is seen as critical
- Extra hand washing stations have been provided on the job site
- EHS conducts periodic inspections on the job site
- Only outdoor projects are allowed on some campuses
- Crew and staff drive their own personal vehicles while on the job site
- Trash is removed daily
- Job site is cleaned frequently with approved chemicals/disinfectant
- Meetings between all parties are now held virtually
- Only essential or emergency repairs and projects are conducted on campus
Results from Construction Survey
The graphic below was created based on responses to the FM-Related Survey on COVID-19 Campus Procedures survey, and the Joint Construction Owner Coronavirus Survey (collaboration of APPA, COAA, and NASFA).