HARRISBURG, Ill. (April 17, 2020) – The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of higher education. In response, tight-knit communities now keep ties strong via means of online classrooms, video conferences, and email. Southeastern Illinois College is not only responding to the demands of social distancing at this time, but also preparing campus for the eventual return of faculty and students.
SIC President Jonah Rice expresses that the safety of students and faculty are the college’s top priority, no matter the situation. “We are sure there will be more changes and guidance from the State and ICCB, but for now SIC wants to remain the leader in providing a safe environment for all–and that planning began early.”
The college is currently exploring options for the retrofitting of campus facilities. Eddie Fitzgerald, Director of Environmental Services at SIC, states that one change to buildings would be foot door openers on non-latching interior doors, such as restroom doors. “We are also looking at adding automatic external door openers that are operated by a proximity sensor, rather than pushing a button,” Fitzgerald states.
The survey of campus needs also includes structural details. “We are evaluating two classrooms in particular,” Fitzgerald says. Wall removal is being assessed as a means for the expansion of classroom size. The increase in the size of classrooms would allow for social distancing practices in classes of smaller proportions.
Less contact with shared surfaces is key to sickness prevention. Where appropriate, plexiglass barriers may be constructed, notably at counters where transactions of business or information would occur. Such barriers help prevent the spread of airborne droplets containing COVID-19. Another proposal is the addition of more hand sanitizing stations, which would not only address the concerns of COVID-19, but the transmission of other bacteria and viruses, as well.
“Being a commuter campus, and not having students packed in dorms and large lecture classes with 300 students in one room makes it easier on SIC to adapt and keep students safe,” Rice said. “So that’s a plus for us, particularly our location in rural America and away from crowds like we are.”
SIC will continue the practice of online-only classes for the remainder of the spring and summer 2020 semesters. The spring 2020 commencement ceremony is postponed until further notice pending health and safety regulations.
“Safety of our students and staff is priority number one,” explains President Rice.
Written by Tyler Bourland, SIC Communications & Relations Specialist.