Face coverings, social distancing required on campus this fall

(Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

Though in-person classes will occur in the fall at Kansas State, life on campus will look different as social distancing is necessitated by the still looming COVID-19 pandemic.

The university will make efforts to limit capacity in residence halls, limit class sizes, have its own contact tracing operations, require face coverings and maintain “COVID capacities” for all shared spaces on campus, Provost Charles Taber said.

At the end of May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a number of guidelines for prevention of COVID-19 on college campuses as they plan to reopen for the summer and fall terms. Protocols include face coverings, prohibiting buffet style dining options and other measures aimed at cutting down contact.

But even that limited scope of face-to-face operations presents an elevated risk, per the new CDC guidance. The lowest risk option would be to “engage in virtual-only learning options, activities and events.”

At K-State, campus will remain on limited operations status through the summer months, but courses will resume a week earlier than expected on Aug. 17. Though specifics about some measures aren’t available yet, Taber said all students and faculty will be required to wear face coverings in classrooms and probably other shared spaces like the K-State Student Union and Hale Library.

On Monday, K-State moved into the third phase of its reawakening protocol — the last formal phase in the plan before phase-out begins. In this phase, gathering size limitations are expanded to allow meetings of 45 people. That being said, backtracking in the protocol is possible. If the situation requires it, K-State could move back to more restrictive policies — like online-only classes.

The onus to comply with the university’s policies will fall onto the students and faculty, but there are plans to compel individuals with negative consequences.

“If we had somebody, for example, who was coming to class without wearing a face covering, refused to wear it, et cetera, we would pursue that through the normal policy violation process,” Taber said. “There’s going to be an opportunity for a pledge where students and other members of the community will pledge to … protect the health of our whole community that will entail agreeing to to wear face coverings and things like that.”

For the most part, Taber said he expects the K-State community to comply without fuss.

“So we’re really expecting that we’re that almost everybody’s kind of going to agree with this and not give us a hard time on it,” Taber said.

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.