Several members of Knox’s senior staff participated in a virtual session open to the Knox community on July 30, discussing the school’s plans for returning to campus this September.
While much of the information discussed by staff was already available online through the Knox Together website, administration emphasized many of the key points.
Students returning to campus will be expected to immediately receive a COVID test and quarantine for 48 hours while awaiting the results, then receive a second test 8 days after arrival. These requirements apply even if the student is living off campus.
When asked about the schools’ ability to handle this level of testing, Nurse Practitioner Abby Putnam assured that Health Services is bringing in members from other departments to help handle the clerical side of it, while Knox so far has been pleased with the agencies it is partnering with to administer testing. Putnam does not anticipate the school facing issues with extended wait times for test results.
When asked if domestic students returning from parts of the country facing larger outbreaks would be handled differently, VP for Student Development Anne Ehrlich said there is not a firm decision in place — but the school is following the CDC’s guidelines, which do not currently recommend different policies for domestic students from different areas.
Students entering the country from abroad will be expected to quarantine for 14 days – but this does not apply to international students who have remained in the country, only those returning from abroad. Ehrlich stated that the school is looking into how they can help keep students engaged and entertained during this period they will have to remain in their rooms.
Students have been assigned different move-in times and dates through emails sent out on Friday. Students are only to have one person with them to help with moving in and are expected to wear masks while in public spaces, with the school providing two masks for every student. Ehrlich asked that students whose assigned time does not work for them reach out to the office of campus life.
Students will not have access to storage until after completing the initial 48 hours of quarantine, but Director of Campus Life Eleanor Kahn stated that students may reach out if they have essential items in storage they cannot wait to have access to.
Once on campus, every morning students are to log in to a symptom monitoring website. The school recommends students bring thermometers as they will have to report their temperature. When students report concerning symptoms, they are to stay in their rooms and will be visited by a health services staff member.
Students who test positive will be moved to isolation housing, where they will have online classes and food delivered for them.
Students are asked to not travel outside of Knox County during the fall term, and asked to consult with Health Services about any plans to travel outside the county during the fall term.
Ehrlich described Knox’s dining areas as being modified and expanded to make it possible for students to continue to sit down and eat together with some distance between them, though Grab and Go will also be available with expanded offerings. The Gizmo and other areas are also to be utilized for serving meals.
When asked how the school would actually enforce social distancing policies, Ehrlich stated that it would largely depend on members of the Knox community to hold each other accountable when they see guidelines not being followed.
However, Ehrlich also stated a student who repeatedly did not follow the policies would likely end up meeting with the dean, and if they did not adjust their behavior, be forced to study remotely.
Provost Michael Schneider discussed adjustments made to the fall’s course offerings, with some class cancelations. The new version of the course list released on Friday also earmarks some classes as having remote delivery, while others as having on campus components that would make it difficult for a student to take the course remotely.
Students affected by these changes are to have already been notified. Schneider described the majority of classes as being taught in a hybrid remote/in-person mode. However, classes will not be time shifted as they were in the spring, as the school expects most students to be on campus for the fall.
Schneider believes academic research will largely be able to continue as normal, though there may be stricter policies on what times people will be able to come into spaces like science labs. He also stated the school hopes to still provide sufficient “study spaces” for students on campus, even if seating is reduced in places like Seymour Library.
As for what the school believes it would take for the school to choose to close down, President Teresa Amott indicated this decision would be a combination of state guidance, health metrics, and internal decision making if a problematic spread on campus is identified.
The school is to hold two follow-up sessions about the school’s symptom monitoring program, one for students and their families on August 18 and one for employees on August 20.