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Reopening Campus After Coronavirus: Three Key Steps for Colleges and Universities

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities across the country are coming to grips with two facts: One, the majority of students are eager to return to campus in Fall 2020, strongly preferring the in-person experience over online classes.

And two, Coronavirus has thrust campus facilities management into a bright spotlight. Students, staff, and entire communities want to know that Higher Ed administrators have an integrated disinfection plan to mitigate the spread of disease and create a safe path forward for reopening campus.

Campus Readiness in 2020

From dormitories to dining halls, labs to lecture halls, every campus space now has to be viewed through the lens of Coronavirus. It’s complex, to say the least – and there’s a lot at stake. First and foremost is the health and safety of every person on campus. There’s the financial impact of COVID-19, and the heavy toll an outbreak and second shutdown could have. We also know administrators are worried about potential effects on enrollment and keeping the confidence of the community.

With the right plan, however, returning to campus this Fall is possible. We believe the best way colleges can reopen confidently is with an integrated disinfection plan tailored to their particular campus environments. Here are three key steps Higher Education institutions should take before finalizing a strategy for Fall 2020.

Reopening Campus, Step One: Plan for Prevention

An effective plan to reopen campus is both proactive and reactive. By proactive, we mean your integrated disinfection plan must set clear, measurable, science-based standards for cleaning and disinfecting. It must include teams that are rigorously trained for proper use of PPE, disinfectant safety, campus-specific social distancing, COVID-19 mitigation protocols, and more.

It must also coordinate intensified cleaning and disinfection processes based on expert recommendations. For example, any integrated disinfection plan should adhere to CDC guidelines and OSHA requirements, follow industry best practices, and draw from deep, real-world expertise working with colleges and universities.

As Higher Ed prepares for the “new normal,” we’ve seen increased interest in the specialized services a facility management company provides. That’s another key element to a proactive virus mitigation plan: Choosing a facilities management partner that specializes in Higher Education and already has experience disinfecting and decontaminating campus spaces after Coronavirus exposure.

Reopening Campus, Step Two: Prepare for Emergencies

Health officials have been clear that communities are likely see an uptick in Coronavirus cases in Fall 2020, with colleges and universities as a particular concern. While the purpose of an integrated disinfection plan is to prevent the spread of disease, outside factors can result in an outbreak on campus.

This is the reactive quality we mention above, asking, in essence: How quickly and effectively can a campus space be decontaminated after a Coronavirus exposure?

Proper advance planning means a facility management team can leap into action immediately – especially if the FM company already has experience with Coronavirus decontamination.

But what should this emergency decontamination process look like? We believe it requires simultaneous action to:

  • Immediately prevent public access to areas used by the patient, such as classrooms, dormitories, and other common areas.
  • Launch cleaning, disinfection, and decontamination protocols using EPA-approved products and specialized equipment for use against the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. You should receive continuous updates from your facility management company about progress and effectiveness. Disinfection teams should have daily team meetings to ensure they’re working safely and efficiently. And community outreach must be timely and transparent, to keep all campus stakeholders safe, up-to-date, and reassured.

Reopening Campus, Step Three: Assess and Adjust

Above all, an integrated disinfection plan needs a Quality Assurance component that documents not just what’s been done, but the effectiveness of those cleaning and disinfection tasks.

Ask your facility services team what intensified cleaning and disinfection entails, and how it’s measured. How are tasks completed and verified? What does the performance management process look like? Look for the marks of a robust Quality Assurance program, including:

  • Clear, steady communication
  • Customizable reporting
  • Verification of cleaning tasks, including time stamps and photos of completed work
  • Barcoding
  • UV testing
  • ATP testing
  • Standards based on CDC, OSHA, APPA, and other expert resources

And finally, make sure your overall plan is flexible. You may need to adjust service levels up or down, depending on changes within the campus environment, such as a phased return. This means working with a facility management company that has the resources and experience to adjust with you – and to make recommendations for improvements and efficiencies throughout the course of your campus partnership.

The Path Forward for Campuses After COVID-19

Campus facilities have always required a sophisticated level of coordination, even before COVID-19. Today, integrated disinfection plans have reached a new level of complexity. Returning to campus may be more complex for Fall 2020, but one goal remains constant: To create a campus environment that ensures safety and good health for students, their families, staff, faculty, and visitors.

Reaching that goal is easier for Higher Ed institutions when they partner with an experienced facility management company. WFF Facility Services has been a true partner and trusted advisor to colleges and universities for more than 45 years, creating and managing Campus Readiness plans tailored to each client’s unique requirements.

Let’s Talk

For more information about integrated disinfection, decontamination, and best practices for reopening campus in the wake of COVID-19, contact our Campus Readiness team today.

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