By Becky Brackin, Director of Communications and Marketing
Angelo State University
SAN ANGELO - A traditional Angelo State University fall semester is full of possibilities. Some of our students are packing up and leaving home for the first time ever. Some are excited to come back and see friends and classmates and take that next step toward graduation.
Last spring, the world was stunned as COVID-19 began its insidious journey. When Angelo State made the decision to move all classes online after extending spring break for a week, the disease was affecting other areas of the nation and state far more extensively.
Unfortunately, that is no longer true, and the summer months have proven that safety measures must be taken more seriously. However, these months have allowed us to gather information and data. We now know more about the disease and how to minimize its spread.
Working with our healthcare partner, Shannon Health, and drawing upon the vast expertise available through our sister institutions and leadership within the Texas Tech University System, our campus leadership decided to open campus again this fall.
We entered into this decision with a commitment to do everything possible to keep our students, faculty and staff safe and deliver an exceptional educational experience. We did this highly aware of the hours of discussion and careful planning ahead. We also knew flexibility would be key as the situation can shift almost instantly.
This will not be a traditional fall semester.
Students will still move into our residence halls and attend classes, but we have been communicating with faculty, staff and students for weeks now about the safeguards we have put into place. These safeguards will limit some of the activities that are hallmarks of a traditional fall semester. Through videos, town hall meetings, emails, social media and more, we have introduced the steps we are taking to minimize the risk for the Ram Family.
No 1: Face Coverings
The Texas Tech University System and Angelo State University adopted a policy that appropriate face coverings are required to be worn by everyone everywhere on campus (there are a few exceptions). This applies to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus.
No. 2: Wellness Screening
Angelo State’s information technology team very quickly developed a digital wellness screening that can be completed by smartphone or another device. Students, faculty, staff and visitors must take the screening before they arrive on campus or leave their residence halls and show a digital “badge” in certain areas across campus. If a member of the Ram Fam indicates a symptom of COVID-19 on the wellness screening, they will be referred to Shannon on Demand for evaluation of their health and the need for further testing. Visitors would be instructed to seek advice from a medical professional before coming to campus.
As well, the Texas Department of Emergency Management and Texas Military Department are offering free voluntary testing for ASU employees and students Aug. 10-14.
No. 3: Sanitization
The risk management and facilities management staff have worked closely with our janitorial service provider, ABM, to augment regular cleaning to include disinfection of common areas throughout the campus with products recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. The university has also purchased high capacity commercial sprayers for disinfection of designated high-use areas.
No. 4: Course Delivery
We are offering courses in several formats this semester. Courses may be delivered all-online, in a hybrid format (face-to-face and online), or in a flipped format. Professors across campus are working with new technology to ensure students participating virtually can see materials presented and hear the classroom discussion. If a student does become ill, professors are prepared to be flexible and help them complete their courses.
No. 5: Space Planning
All areas of Angelo State, from dining to classrooms, are reducing capacity to accomplish social distancing. Desks have been removed from classrooms or restricted from use. Equipment in the Ben Kelly Center for Human Performance will likewise be moved or labeled. Dining will be available for pickup or served by Chartwells staff rather than the traditional self-serve options. Seating areas will be arranged to provide proper distance. Other areas of campus, such as labs, have been outfitted with plexiglass panels to separate students.
No. 6: Event Policy
The Texas Tech University System and its component institutions have established an event policy that limits attendance to 10 or fewer individuals, requires that face coverings are worn and six feet of social distance is maintained. It prohibits food and drink at events and includes other safety measures. The term “event” does not include academic, employment or athletics gatherings. The policy allows for a few exceptions if approved by university administration.
No. 7: Procedure if a student tests positive for COVID-19
During the virtual town hall meetings we have hosted, attendees have asked great questions. One of the most significant is: what happens if a student at ASU tests positive for COVID-19? In this case, we have a thorough response plan that includes isolation and contact tracing. Our student affairs staff will monitor the student’s well-being and ensure meals, toiletries and other needs are provided throughout the process. Faculty members are prepared to work with students who become ill to help them complete their classwork. Similar plans are in place for faculty or staff who might become ill with COVID-19.
Safety is a Shared Responsibility
For those students who prefer face-to-face classes and the campus experience, we are committed to safety. Our efforts will only be successful if everyone - students, faculty, staff and visitors - share the responsibility for safety and integrity by following the policies and procedures set forth.
As always, we are committed to providing an excellent educational experience for all - whether online or in person. In 1928 this community was determined to offer a top-notch higher education in West Texas, and through almost 100 years of challenges and triumphs, we are just as committed to honoring that determination.
These are highlights of a complex plan that must allow for flexibility, should circumstances change. To learn more about Angelo State University’s commitment to a safe return to campus, go to angelo.edu/commitment.