Gettysburg College Details its Reopening Plans

Gettysburg College has extensively detailed its comprehensive plans for reopening in a series of town hall meetings that are recorded on the college website.

Julie Ramsey, Vice President for College Life and Dean of Students, said the campus had “tried to reimagine almost everything that goes on at Gettysburg College” to prepare for the pandemic.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from students, faculty, and parents that they want to be back together. This is our mission – to provide residential education,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said there would likely be cases of COVID-19 on campus but that the administration would “work quickly to prevent further spread.”

Ramsey said each student has been asked to quarantine before they come to campus and will be tested for the virus when they check in for the fall semester. 

Students will remain in quarantine for their first days on campus and will each have a “to go bag” that prepares them to quickly leave their room or their dorm or even the campus quickly.

Students will wear masks or social distance at all times except when they are in their dorm room with their roommate.

Tents to be used for classrooms and other activities have been erected on the campus

Ramsey said a number of outdoor tents had been erected to provide more space for courses and student activities. 

“Prepare to spend more time outside,” Ramsey told the students.

College spokespersons reminded students that it was important for all students to cooperate in the health guidance plan.  “If we can’t do that there are going to be consequences both for the community and for individuals,” said Ramsey. 

Jim Biesecker, Executive Director of Facilities Planning and Management, said all college classrooms and public spaces have been equipped with hand sanitizer at every entrance and that employees and students were being asked to work together to keep a clean space. 

Biesecker said furniture had been removed and plexiglass barriers installed in classrooms, dining spaces, and shared areas. Signs directing traffic flow and social distancing have been placed around campus.

Biesecker said there would be fewer students in many of the dorms to enable better social distancing. The college has closed the Gettysburg Hotel and will be using it for student housing during the academic year.

Director of Health Services Judy Williams said the campus health service has hired more staff and purchased extra PPEs.  She said two negative airflow rooms have been created in the health center, and that a team of contact tracers, certified through a program at Johns Hopkins University, is in place.

“There will also be daily health monitoring and students will receive a report of green yellow or red depending on what symptoms or responses they give,” said Williams.

Williams said the college had contracted with a testing agency and that tests were expected to be returned within 48 hours.

The college will conduct random surveillance testing of 100 students every week.

“We feel very confident we have test supplies to implement our plan,” said Williams.

The college has partnered with a health-advisory firm, Keeling and Associates of Provincetown, MA, to help plan their safety response.

The agency’s CEO, Dr. Richard P. Keeling, said the overall goals of the health plan are to “prevent infection all the time that we can, to detect it as early as possible if it does occur, and then to contain it.”

Keeling said the major source of transmission “is among large groups of students, especially indoors. In order to stay open it’s not going to be possible to have the kinds of gatherings, parties, events that we might be looking forward to.”

Keeling said the college was lucky because Adams County has had a low incidence of the virus.

Keeling said “We expect it can be a very healthy and safe semester,” but reminded the community that the possibility of stopping a course, closing a residence hall, or even shutting the entire campus might be in the cards.

We understand the patterns of transmission of this virus very well,” said Keeling. “Masks, social distancing, avoidance of big gatherings. That’s all of our obligations to each other.”

Pete North, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services, said the campus had re-imagined the college dining experience as well. North said dining room seating has been reduced “even more than the governor is is recommending for restaurants.  All of our seats will be six feet apart unless there is a physical plexiglass divider,” said North.

Food will be “prepackaged and served to you, said the meals are designed to be taken away and reheated,” said North.

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Charles (Chuck) Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Owner, Publisher, and Editor in Chief. I would like to hear from you. Please contact me at cstangor@gettysburgconnection.org.

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