Residence halls home to 2,770 students — a 20 percent decrease from last year

Life in Wefald Hall, like other residence halls on campus, has been affected by COVID-19. Everything from building capacity to dining hall operations looks different. (File Photo by John Benfer | Collegian Media Group)

Despite an abundance of online classes and social distancing guidelines, 2,770 students reside in on-campus residence halls this semester.

Derek Jackson, associate vice president of Housing and Dining Services, said last year, 3,440 students lived on campus. The 20 percent reduction in on-campus residents helps Housing and Dining ensure students are not sharing too many facilities.

Housing and Dining’s goal “was to get to about 70 percent of the normal capacity on a dorm floor,” or four students per bathroom facility, Jackson said.

Karlynn Vossen, freshman in animal sciences and industry, said in an email her floor’s bathroom in Haymaker Hall is very clean and is cleaned every weekday morning.

“We have about 12 people on our community side,” Vossen said. “I would say — at least on my floor — everyone wears their mask even when just going to the bathroom or to the showers, but I know some other floors don’t follow the rules as strictly.”

On Vossen’s floor, the lobby also has a limited capacity of 12 people at a time. She is not sure how many people live in the suite wing of her floor.

In addition to reducing capacity, Housing and Dining has set aside 418 spaces for quarantine and isolation.

“We held apartments in Jardine offline,” Jackson said. “We also have Van Zile Hall.”

Jackson said Van Zile is used to isolate people under investigation for COVID-19 — students who have been tested, but who have not received their test results yet.

In Van Zile, 68 beds are available for this purpose. The other 350 isolation rooms are at Jardine.

Students in isolation have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are waiting for their results. Quarantine is used for close contacts of people who tested positive.

Isolation in Jardine or Van Zile isn’t limited to on-campus residents, Jackson said. Students living off campus can also reside in dorms or Jardine apartments during their isolation or quarantine periods.

“Right now, we’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 [students] in isolation, which includes off-campus students,” Jackson said. “We have about 35 students in quarantine as of [Thursday] morning.”

Jackson said there is a “COVID care team” which manages isolation and quarantine operations. They help students relocate for the 14-day period and make sure rules related to COVID-19 prevention are followed.

Nicholas Lander, associate director of Housing and Dining Services, said four people are part of the care team.

“We’re the ones that contact students that live in the residence halls or Jardine and tell them if they need to isolate or quarantine,” Lander said. “Then, we work with them to figure out what option is going to work best for them. In some cases, students choose to go home, but most of them need to stay on campus. We can work with them to move them to any of our isolation or quarantine spaces.”

Lander said contact is made immediately once a positive test is received and the resident is moved within an hour to an isolation room.

“We also notify roommates if it’s a positive case,” Lander said. “We’ll notify the roommate and let them know they need to quarantine and essentially go through the same process with them.”

Resident assistants aren’t involved in this process. Their role, Jackson said, is focusing on normal, day-to-day resident activities and keeping residents safe.

“Making sure that students are wearing a mask, making sure that people are social distancing, and activities are done in a way that is following university guidance standards,” Jackson said.

While RAs are ensuring those guidelines are followed, Vossen said it can be difficult to do in the building.

“Most people don’t follow the social distancing guidelines because the hallways are too small and, frankly, you are either just trying to leave or just get back up to your room,” Vossen said. “I have been in an elevator with at least five other people at one time which was definitely not distanced.”

While this isn’t the experience Vossen was hoping to have her freshman year, she said she’s still finding ways to connect with her fellow residents.

“Everyone on the floor is nice, and we make plans to go out and do things like go to eat together or play a sport outside,” she said.

The biggest inconvenience, Vossen said, is that the Derby Dining Center remains closed. On Friday evenings and all day Saturdays, she and her floormates have to walk across campus to Kramer to get a meal.

Dining centers do serve a smaller amount of students but are still limiting capacities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Additional take-out options are available.

My name is Bailey Britton and I am the former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I have been the assistant news editor and the managing editor. I have also interned for the Manhattan Mercury and the Colby Free Press. I grew up in Colby, Kansas, and I am a junior in journalism and English. Through the Collegian, I aim to provide the K-State community with quality news coverage while we learn to serve our campus.