At this point, most colleges and universities are virtual or hybrid. Many made the decision before classes started or after a virus outbreak prompted them to change course. However, there are a handful of schools that reopened and managed to successfully keep their students on campus.
Here are three reasons they have been able to stay open.
The schools are committed to testing and tracking. Although some college campuses only required testing upon arrival to campus at the start of the semester, other schools have executed a plan to continue testing.
At some schools, a student, faculty, or staff member does not need to show symptoms or come into contact with someone who tested positive to get tested. Anyone who wants to be tested has access to a test and the support to get it done. This invites more frequent testing and monitoring of individual conditions, and it gives schools the ability to act quickly if and when someone tests positive.
When it comes to tracking, schools are using technology and other tools to measure the community spread and follow guidelines to mitigate risk. Tools such as Virus SAFE EDU help everyone get on the same page when it comes to processes and protocols and tracking sanitization and cleaning. These tools hold schools accountable and help everyone understand what to do, when to do it, and why it matters.
The communities have an “in it together” mentality. It seems obvious, but one-off efforts or guidelines students refuse to follow do not work. One-way communication and a lack of mutual respect prevent progress. Without buy-in from everyone in the community, there is a slim chance protocols will be followed and health and safety guidelines upheld.
Schools that reported few or no virus cases on campus are those with a community-focused mentality. Their messaging invites students, faculty, and staff to do their part to stop the spread and keep the campus virus-free. It’s about protecting the community and protecting individuals.
Communication efforts with this message strategy stem from the school’s core values and are inherent in their DNA. This also works when the school has the ability to communicate the importance of students having respect for one another and trust that they can—and should—act in the best interests of their community.
The surrounding community spread rate is low. While this is not necessarily a controllable factor, schools are more likely to remain open in places where community spread in the surrounding cities and counties is low. If the community beyond campus is adhering to stricter guidelines put forth by local governments, those living in the area are more compliant. Therefore, there’s a lower rate of contracting and spreading the virus.
The ‘healthier’ outside environment lessens the chance that students venturing off campus will catch the virus. And those students could be positively influenced to follow protocols as everyone around them does the same.
It all boils down to our basic abilities to outline what needs to be done, get others on board to comply, and keep tabs on the progress. The controllable factors are just that—controllable.
If colleges and universities continue to control what they can and have students, staff, and faculty play their part in maintaining a safe and healthy environment, those schools will have the best chance of opening and staying open. Tools like VirusSAFE EDU can and will help. Remember, we are all in this together.