As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, colleges and universities across the country are coming to grips with two facts: One, students are eager to see your campus reopen in Fall 2020, 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 plan to mitigate the spread of disease and create a safer path forward when campuses reopen.
Campus Readiness in 2020
From dormitories to dining halls, labs to lecture halls, every campus space is now viewed through the lens of Coronavirus. It’s complex, to say the least – and there’s so much 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 could have. We also know administrators are facing potential effects on enrollment and are striving to maintain the confidence of the community.
With the right plan, however, higher ed will be prepared to reopen campus – when the time is right. Whether it’s this month, later in the fall, or a to-be-determined date, we believe colleges can reopen more confidently with an integrated disinfecting plan tailored to their campus environments. Here are three key steps higher education institutions should take before finalizing a strategy to reopen.
Step One: Plan for Prevention
An effective plan to reopen campus is both proactive and reactive. By proactive, we mean any integrated disinfecting plan must be grounded in clear, measurable, science-based standards. 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.
For example, any integrated disinfecting plan should follow CDC guidelines and OSHA requirements, adhere to industry best practices, and draw from deep, real-world expertise working with colleges and universities.
As higher education prepares for the “new normal,” we’ve seen increased interest in the specialized services an outsourced facility management company can provide. That’s another key element to a proactive plan: Choosing a facilities management partner that specializes in higher education and has experience with campus spaces that have been exposed to Coronavirus.
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 an integrated disinfecting plan can slow the spread of disease, outside factors can still result in an outbreak on campus.
This is the reactive quality we mention above, asking, in essence: How quickly and effectively can a Coronavirus exposure on campus be addressed?
Proper advance planning includes working with a facility management team that can leap into action immediately – easier if the FM company already has experience with Coronavirus-exposed spaces.
But what should this emergency response 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, disinfecting, and decontaminating 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.
Step Three: Assess and Adjust
Above all, an integrated disinfecting plan needs a Quality Assurance component that documents not just what’s been done, but the effectiveness of those cleaning and disinfecting tasks.
Ask your facility services team what intensified cleaning and disinfecting tasks look like once you reopen campus, and how they’re measured. How are tasks completed and verified? What does the performance management process entail? 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
- 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
Campus facilities have always required a sophisticated level of coordination, even before COVID-19. Today, integrated disinfecting plans have added a new layer of complexity. Returning to campus is more complex in 2020, but one goal remains constant: To create a campus environment that prioritizes 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. HES Facilities Management 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.
For more information about integrated disinfecting tasks and best practices for reopening campus – when the time is right for you – contact our team today.