West Chester University’s 2021 Spring Plan: Cooperating as a Campus Community

West Chester University’s 2021 Spring Plan is intended to continue aiding in mitigating the risk of the virus spreading on campus while recognizing that no amount of planning can eliminate the risk of COVID-19. The success of our plan will depend on the cooperation of ALL individuals within our community.

This document is based on available scientific information about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.  The plan outlines actions developed and created after our review of guidelines and recommendations of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Chester County Department of Health (CCDH) and other scientific and professional organizations. As the guidelines change and more is learned about the virus, the University may alter this document. WCU has and will continue to coordinate with both state and county Departments of Health and West Chester Borough municipal officials as appropriate and necessary.

Safety is a shared responsibility that requires every West Chester University student and employee to work together. Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols are already in place throughout campus. Your cooperation ensures that we are able to offer a high-quality, unique educational experience regardless of disruptions brought on by COVID-19.

In accordance with PDE and to meet CDC guidelines, William J. Helzlsouer, Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, will continue to serve as the University’s  COVID-19 administrator.

Strategy for Campus Life

Academics

The Spring 2021 academic calendar will not change. The academic calendar can be reviewed here.

The majority of courses will be provided via remote and/or online instruction for the duration of the Spring academic term. Face-to-face instruction will be used only for those courses which in which a bona fide academic and/or pedagogical need has been established with the appropriate department or college.

Courses can be provided in a synchronous or asynchronous fashion as determined by the faculty member.

Those courses which are offered synchronously must occur during the schedule hour(s) as established in the course offering; this is to include final exams.

All faculty office hours and advising will be conducted remotely. Faculty are permitted to use their office space but meetings and/or student advising with faculty and staff must occur virtually via Zoom or MS Teams.

Program offerings or educational experiences which typically involve non-matriculated minors coming to campus for the purposes of engaging with students for educational purposes must be conducted remotely.

Education & Training

The University will provide ongoing training and awareness programs for employees and students throughout the spring semester to include the following: strategies to stop the spread of COVID-19, university community expectations, updates on CDC guidance, availability and access to campus and community resources, and self-care.

Athletics

The West Chester University Athletics Department has developed a plan for return to play that emphasizes the health and safety of our student athletes, opponents, and our families and fans.   The University continues to receive additional updates from PSAC, our athletic conference, and the NCAA regarding the status of championships and testing protocols as part of the plan development.

Residence Halls

On-campus housing will be limited. Approvals will only be given to students who are in the following categories: Promise Program students, proven hardship cases, academic placements (i.e. student teachers, clinical placements, and internship sites), and student athletes.

Students will adhere to the Student Community Agreement , the updated West Chester University Student Code of Conduct , and the On-Campus Housing COVID Rules and Regulations.

Students who have traveled prior to move-in will be required to quarantine at home for 14 days before arriving to campus. Please refer to state and CDC guidelines for updated information on quarantining.  

Residential students must be tested for COVID-19 using a PCR test administered within 10 days of their scheduled move-in date. Out-of-state students will be contacted with updated PA state guidelines closer to move in. Test results must be submitted to Student Health Services through the secured web portal. Students may be tested by their primary care provider, local health department, or by visiting designated retail locations. Students who do not submit test results will not be permitted to check-in to the residence halls. Students who submit positive test results will not be able to check-in to the residence halls until they are cleared by their medical provider, health department, or Student Health Services. The purpose of pre-arrival testing is to determine possible COVID-19 cases entering the residential community. This testing requirement will also prompt residential students to quarantine at home prior to moving on campus. 

Students are not required to wear masks in their living spaces. Students in residence halls and apartments should continue to wear face masks in common areas. Guest privileges are initially suspended. Ongoing monitoring of the health and safety of the community will occur continually.

Student Life and Residence Hall staff will coordinate with WCU Student Health Services, Public Safety, and WCU Facilities on an ongoing basis.

High-traffic areas and touch points in both WCU Traditional Housing and USH Affiliated Housing will be cleaned more frequently. Building common areas and amenity usage have been modified to ensure we remain in compliance with federal, state, local, and University guidelines. All health and safety guidelines will be posted throughout our communities and they must be adhered to at all times.

Dining

The Rams Head Food Court (which includes Chick-fil-A, Grille Works, and a combined station of Sandwich Shack and Greens to Go) in Sykes Student Union, Starbucks, the Village P.O.D., and Good Uncle will be open for the Spring 2021 semester.

Limited options for dining are available during reduced hours in the Ram’s Head Food Court. All meal plans and pricing can be found on myWCU or our campus dish website. 

To comply with safety and health guidelines, the dining experience in all venues will be different, including restricted seating, modified menu options, and use of technology for ordering and payment. In addition, all dining locations will follow the below guidelines:

Face Masks & Health Screenings

Face masks will be required to enter any of our dining facilities and all dining staff will be required to wear face masks. In addition, dining staff are also required to be temperature-checked daily and to take a health screening prior to their shifts.

Cleanings

Rams Head will be closed once each day for cleaning and sanitation. In all dining locations, there will be extra and frequent cleanings of all surfaces and items that are at higher risk of contamination (door handles, light switches, condiment stations, etc.).

Physical Distancing

Students will be required to practice physical distancing throughout each of our dining locations. Decals have been placed on the floor and at each station to ensure 6-foot distances. Kiosks in Rams Head will be pulled from the counters and placed 6 feet apart along the walls.

Seating

  • All tables and chairs will be removed from Rams Head Food Court and Starbucks and no seating will be available. All food from Rams Head will be placed in to-go containers for students to take out of the dining location and eat at their leisure.
  • Only 5 people will be allowed inside of the Village P.O.D. at once.

Additional Precautions

  • Plexiglass and/or rollup barriers have been installed in all appropriate areas.
  • Disposable silverware, to-go containers, and all condiments will be individually packaged with each meal.

Transportation (Shuttle Buses)

All passengers MUST properly wear a mask or face covering to ride the WCU shuttle buses. The University has asked the shuttle drivers to not allow a passenger on if they are showing signs of a respiratory illness.

The University will run a limited all-stops bus service between North and South Campus for the Spring 2021 semester. The service will have reduced hours of operation. The number of passengers will be limited for each shuttle based on the size of each vehicle. Between each route, every bus will have a designated “sanitizing stop” to ensure that frequent touch points are disinfected between every loop.

University shuttle passengers are required to wear face masks and practice physical distancing while waiting for shuttles.

Academic Support Services

  • The Library will remain open throughout the semester. For the health and safety of the campus community, the Library will implement physical distancing practices and alternative service models to accommodate campus needs. Updates are provided at https://library.wcupa.edu/home
  • Tutoring will be available through LARC. Tutors will conduct tutoring sessions via Zoom starting the second week of the semester. Additional online tutoring will be available 24/7 through SmarThinking, which can be accessed under “Resources” on D2L. Information regarding virtual tutor registration will be made available to all students prior to the start of the spring semester.
  • The Writing Center will offer writing tutoring via Zoom. In some courses, tutors will be embedded with the course, and their contact information will be available on the course D2L site. Students are encouraged to visit the Writing Center’s website to schedule an appointment.
  • Success coaches will be available to help students manage time, getting organized with classes, preparing for tests etc. Students can either meet individually with a success coach or view available Academic Success Workshops to learn and implement success strategies on their own. Students are encouraged to visit the website to either schedule an on-line appointment with a success coach or to view a workshop.
  • Philadelphia campus Student Success Center will also be available to students for providing online support

Counseling Services

The Counseling Center will continue to provide virtual mental health services using telehealth to maintain physical distancing and protect the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty. Emergency information and after-hours phone numbers are listed on their homepage.

Students in crisis should call the Counseling Center office by calling 610-436-2301.

The Counseling Center will also continue to provide training and resources, virtual outreach services, and consultations for faculty to address student mental health concerns related to COVID-19.

Due to licensure rules, the Counseling Center may be limited in the ability to provide online counseling to students who will be located outside of Pennsylvania during the spring semester.

Health services

Student Health Services (SHS) remains fully operational. Student Health Services is available for telehealth visits and select in-person visits by appointment only. Hours of operation are 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday – Friday. Students should call 610-436-2509 to schedule an appointment.

Due to licensure rules, Student Health Services may be limited in the ability to provide telehealth to students located outside of Pennsylvania during the spring semester.

Students with COVID-19 symptoms will be referred for testing following CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance. Testing is available at Student Health Services. Additional testing sites are available in Chester County and throughout Pennsylvania. SHS will comply with established protocols for reporting cases of COVID-19 to the Chester County Department of Health. SHS will publicize COVID-19 specific protocols and important updates to the SHS website. SHS staff will receive frequent briefings and updates regarding any changes in protocols. SHS will monitor the development of testing, therapies, and vaccinations and implement additional services and programs as needed.

Non-Essential Travel

All non-essential domestic and international travel remain suspended until further notice. West Chester University defines essential travel as that which is essential for the safety and security of the operations of the University.

Student Recreation Center

Campus Recreation is an integral part of student wellness on campus. The PA Department of Education (PDE) Guidance permits the use of gyms if physical distancing and cleaning protocols are in place. However, operations may be impacted additional health department and government orders. Campus Recreation will also follow additional guidance by NIRSA and ACHA Guidelines .

Campus Recreation will resume operations with the following modifications:

  • A reservation system to use the Student Recreation Center will limit occupancy to 100 patrons at any given time for strength and cardio equipment. Reservations will be scheduled on an hourly basis.
  • Cardio equipment that does not require electricity (ellipticals, bikes, ARC trainers) will be available in the MAC court and spread out 8 feet apart.
  • “Selectorized” strength equipment will be available and spread out 8 feet apart on the second and third floors.
  • Treadmills are spread out 6 to 8 feet apart and will be facing second floor windows.
  • ERC Wipes stations are available throughout the building for patrons to use before and after they use the equipment.
  • Student staff will clean equipment throughout the day based on CDC guidelines.
  • Additional hand sanitizer stations have been installed.
  • Signage has been placed around the building to remind patrons to maintain physical distancing while moving around the Rec Center. Physical distancing is emphasized throughout the Student Recreation Center including clearly marked separate entry and exit doors.
  • Staff follow safety checks before each shift according to the CDC guidelines.
  • While on the floors, staff are required to wear face masks. Staff will also wear gloves when cleaning.
  • Basketball courts will be utilized for group fitness classes, intramurals, sport club practices and any larger scale events. Court floors are taped with boxes that are 8 foot by 8 foot to maintain physical distancing.
  • Studios will implement 8 feet by 8 feet physical distancing guidelines for occupancy.

Intramurals and Sports Clubs team activities are suspended for the spring. General body meetings and trainings may be offered remotely for the spring semester.

  • Group fitness classes will be offered in studios, basketball courts and third floor terrace based on 8 feet by 8 feet physical distancing measures. A virtual option will be offered for remote use by patrons.
  • Additional cleaning protocols will be implemented after each class in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Outdoor Adventure Pursuits will limit group size (including program leaders) to 25 people.

Mitigation Strategy

West Chester University requires all campus community members to adhere to the following basic protective health requirements:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in close proximity to others while outdoors.
  • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth indoors irrespective of physical distance from others, unless you are within a closed room, alone, with the door closed.
  • Maintain physical distance of six feet apart.
  • Comply with physical distancing signage on campus.
  • Know the symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Monitor your health daily.
  • Stay home if you feel ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands as often as possible.
  • Minimize gatherings and meetings.

Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • All individuals should wear appropriate PPE that covers the mouth and nose in all classrooms, common areas, and places where a 6-foot distance between individuals cannot be maintained. Faculty/staff are not required to wear a face mask when alone in their office, when their office door is closed, but should do so if someone enters their office.
  • CDC guidance does not recommend using face shields as a substitute for masks, or masks that have an exhalation valve or vent.
  • Students are not required to wear masks in their private living spaces. Students in residence halls and apartments should continue to wear face masks in common areas.
  • WCU community members may continue to use the WCU-issued face masks or their own personal protective equipment if the equipment is in alignment with the latest guidelines released by public health authorities.
  • Face masks need to be cleaned and cared for to offer protection. See and follow the guidance offered at Coronavirus: How to Care for Your Face Mask from Johns Hopkins Medicine or How to Wash Cloth Face Coverings from the CDC.

Hygiene requirements

  • Cleaning service levels across campus will be increased to align with the CDC’s Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting.
  • Sanitizing stations with wipes (for use on hard surfaces, door handles, etc.) and hand sanitizer dispensers have been placed in every classroom and the common areas of office suites. All classrooms having face-to-face instruction and other high-touch areas will have enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols.
  • Custodial service will replenish critical supplies such as sanitizer and cleaning wipes through service-upon-request process.
  • For those courses that must include face-to-face instruction, classrooms have been evaluated and signage installed to ensure that six-feet physical distancing guidelines are maintained. Clear barriers (roll-up or rigid) have been installed at the instructors’ desks. All individuals occupying those spaces are encouraged to use these products when they enter those areas, including prior to the beginning of each class.
  • Faculty and staff who are required to be on campus are responsible for maintaining their personal space with the sanitizing products provided.
  • Space barriers (roll-up or rigid) will be installed in offices where in-person visits are required. Similarly, plastic shields are installed for lecterns and instructors’ desks.
  • Signage is being installed across campus to encourage physical distancing both inside buildings and outside.
  • Congregating in hallways, stairways and other places inside the building will be strongly discouraged.
  • Traffic will be guided via signage and floor markings in certain buildings to ensure physical distancing.

Physical Distancing/Gatherings

  • All employees, students and visitors are required to practice physical distancing while on campus.
  • Occupants are to stay to the right while navigating stairs, hallways and entrances/exits. Try to maintain common traffic patterns as if they were roadways.
  • Students attending courses on campus should avoid arriving at their class too early to reduce congestion in the hallways. Classroom occupancies have also been greatly lowered to help reduce congestion and to maintain physical distancing.
  • Elevators capacities have been reduced based on physical distancing and the reduced capacity will be displayed in front of each elevators.
  • Physical distancing floor markers will be installed where appropriate.
  • Physical barriers (e.g. plexiglass or rollup barriers) will be installed at counters in areas where it is difficult to maintain 6-ft. physical distancing, as deemed appropriate.
  • All non-instructional meetings must occur virtually.
  • Occupants are expected to maintain physical distancing when in a lounge/lobby/study room/conference room. The furniture will be reduced where possible.

  

Campus environment modifications (classrooms, buildings, space, residence)

Buildings

  • Occupancy will be reduced in elevators to no more than two (2) individuals.
  • Plexiglass or rollup guards and partitions have been installed in high-traffic, student-service areas where physical distancing is not possible.
  • Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the buildings.
  • Facilities will explore programming to maximize the volume of outside air. This includes operating the exhaust fans as well as opening the outside air dampers. Increasing air filters to HEPA is dependent on each piece of equipment and its capability. These processes follow the EPA and ASHRAE guidance.

Classrooms

  • Classrooms and general meeting rooms will be upgraded with technology (audio and video) to allow for concurrent remote learning wherever possible.
  • All classrooms for face-to-face instruction and other high-touch areas will have enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols. Signage will be posted in and around all classrooms in use to: (1) encourage physical distancing guidelines and (2) discourage congregating in hallways outside classrooms.

Residence Halls

  • Campus residence halls will be de-densified to limit crowding and minimize the spread of COVID-19.
  • All students living on campus will be assigned their own bedroom.
  • Lounge furniture is being rearranged and/or reduced to limit gatherings.
  • Elevator occupancy will be reduced to allow for physical distancing, and signage will be installed to advise students of updated elevator capacities.
  • Students are to maintain physical distance while using common areas including the community kitchens and laundry rooms.

Schedules (telework)

Employee density level on campus will range from thirty-three to less than fifty percent (33 to <50%) as a target on any given day. Using a rotation schedule, WCU will ensure that in-person service is provided to our community members, while providing for physical distancing for our employees. Many offices may not be fully staffed in person on campus, with a portion of the office continuing to work remotely on a rotating basis to aid in physical distancing. Vice Presidents in concert with their Associate and Assistant Vice Presidents and Deans, will review their organization and determine the staffing rotation.

Additionally, the University has established a flexible work arrangement policy. Employees seeking a flexible work arrangement are encouraged to contact the Office of Human Resources.

Monitoring Strategy

1. Self-reporting

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard the health and safety of the University community, all students and employees are expected to report if they are experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19, or if they have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19. Students will be required to self-report using the COVID-19 Information Form.

WCU will follow guidance from the Chester County Health Department for screening employees to assess the need for exclusion from the workplace and self-quarantine/isolation.

2. Testing

Faculty, staff, and students seeking a test are directed to contact their personal healthcare provider. Students may contact Student Health Services or their personal healthcare provider for help in finding access to a testing facility.

Residential students must be tested for COVID-19 using a PCR test administered within 10 days of their scheduled move-in date. Out of state students will be contacted with updated PA state guidelines closer to move in. Test results must be submitted to Student Health Services through the secured web portal. Students may be tested by their primary care provider, local health department, or by visiting designated retail locations. Students who do not submit test results will not be permitted to check-in to the residence halls. Students who submit positive test results will not be able to check-in to the residence halls until they are cleared by their medical provider, health department, or Student Health Services.

Student athletes will follow testing protocols in the Athletics return to play plan.

3. Contact tracing

WCU will report any known positive cases of COVID-19 to the Chester County Health Department (CCHD) or Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH). This will support the PA Department of Health and local health departments in their efforts to complete case investigation and contact tracing of positive cases to reduce COVID-19. WCU will follow guidance provided by CCHD for reported cases.

WCU will establish a COVID-19 exposure team whose primary task will be close contact interviews with reporting faculty, staff, and students.

4. Confirmed Case

The Chester County Health Department (CCHD) has protocols for confirmed cases. Information will be shared in accordance with the CCHD’s guidance. Each situation will be unique and will be evaluated on what notifications will be necessary based on the current situation to ensure the confidentiality of the student or employee.

5. Quarantine/Self-Isolation

Based on medical advice, community members may need to isolate/quarantine themselves according to PA Department of Health guidance. 

Students residing on campus will isolate/quarantine at their permanent home or work with the Office of Residence Life and Housing Services to access campus housing designated for isolation/quarantine. Off-campus students will refrain from returning to campus for courses, activities, or any non-instructional or social functions while they are isolated or quarantined. 

Employees who are required to isolate/quarantine themselves shall not return to campus until cleared by their health care provider. They must notify their supervisor and Human Resources (610-436-2800) of their absence. If their health permits, employees can arrange to work from home with their supervisors while they are isolated or quarantined. 

 

6. County status change (Red/Yellow/Green)

In the event that Chester County or the state government issues new orders related to COVID-19, West Chester University will follow guidance outlined by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.

 

Communications Strategy

WCU has dedicated pages that serve as a hub for official information about the University’s responses to the pandemic, including campus announcements, FAQs, and physical distancing guidance.

Campus email is the primary mode of communication with all students and employees. Secondary channels to reinforce University messaging include social media and campus alerts (emergency messages via text message and email).

Students and employees will be encouraged to frequently use the CDC Self-Checker to help them make decisions and seek appropriate medical care. Communication on self-monitoring and self-reporting will occur via email reminders, text messages, and signage throughout campus.

Identified Case/Quarantine Notification

The administration will keep the campus community updated on the number of COVID-19 positive cases confirmed among students, faculty, and staff. The information will be disseminated through the WCU Health Notices website. The website will be updated within 24 hours of the institution receiving the information. There will be no individual emails or press releases for every case reported.

Coordination with Local Public Health Officials

WCU will engage in regular contact with local government and health authorities, such as the Chester County Health Department and Chester County Hospital. The administration will distribute timely information to the University community provided by local public health officials.

Expectations for Employees, Students, and Visitors

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education has designed and created expectations for all universities to use as a framework for a return to campus for Spring 2021. Those expectations and State System information can be found on the PASSHE website

In summary, here are the basic protective health requirements for the West Chester University campus community:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when indoors, in classrooms, common areas, hallways, stairwells, elevators, on University shuttles, and when in close proximity to others while outdoors.
  • Maintain physical distance of six feet apart.
  • Comply with physical distancing signage on campus.
  • Know the symptoms.
  • Monitor your health daily.
  • Stay home if you feel ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands as often as possible.
  • Minimize gatherings and meetings.

No groups of more than twenty-five (25) individuals will be allowed to gather on campus at any time.

All non-instructional meetings among or between University Faculty and Staff should occur virtually via Zoom or MS Teams.

Faculty/staff are not required to wear a facemask when alone in their office, when their office door is closed, but should do so if someone enters their office.

Students who refuse to wear masks when indoors, in classrooms, common areas, hallways, stairwells, elevators, on University shuttles, and when in close proximity to others while outdoors will be advised and may be charged with Student Code of Conduct   violations.

Faculty/staff who refuse to wear face masks and maintain physical distance may face disciplinary action as these are considered safety violations.

Other individuals who refuse to wear face masks on the WCU campus will likely be banned from all on-campus experiences, including in-person.

 

Note

The evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic requires that this plan be a living document, subject to change in response to new developments and guidance.

The WCU Cabinet-approved document is housed with William J. Helzlsouer, Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, as the COVID-19 administrator.

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