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The Arkansas Tech University Department of Residence Life has developed a comprehensive pandemic recovery plan that seeks to create and maintain a safe living environment for ATU students amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"We were fortunate in our student housing planning for fall 2020 to benefit from a head start provided by the communicable diseases policy that we adopted several years ago," said Dr. Keegan Nichols, ATU vice president for student affairs. "Preventing, mitigating and recovering from communicable diseases is an essential aspect of an effective student housing operation, and we are fortunate to have an outstanding group of full-time professional staff and part-time student staff who are thoroughly trained in and dedicated to providing a safe, clean and healthy living environment. We will fulfill our civic responsibility to limit the spread of COVID-19 by educating our staff and students about preventative measures, making data-driven decisions about best practices for safety and planning ahead in the event that we have suspected or confirmed cases among our residential population."

The effort to create a safe residence hall environment has been underway at ATU throughout the summer months.

Personnel from the ATU Office of Facilities Management and the ATU Department of Residence Life sanitized and prepared the university’s student housing facilities in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

From July 31-Aug. 8, ATU residential students will have the option to drop off their belongings in their on-campus room on a contactless, by-appointment basis.

Appointments will be spaced out to allow for proper social distancing and enhanced disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as door handles and handrails. Students may bring two helpers with them. All ATU pandemic safety provisions, including the wearing of masks when social distancing is not possible and the completion of the daily health screening process available at www.atu.edu/pandemicrecovery, are required for participating in the drop-off process.

ATU residential students who participate in the drop-off option July 31-Aug. 8 will be able to take occupancy of their rooms beginning Aug. 15.

ATU residential students who do not participate in the drop-off option will move in to their on-campus housing at an assigned time Aug. 10-14. For those students, the ATU Department of Residence Life will offer a centralized, contactless drive through check-in.

Entrances and hallways at ATU student housing facilities will be pandemic ready with signage directing one-way traffic in and out of the building.

Inside the on-campus housing facilities, occupancy limits will be posted in common areas such as laundry rooms, kitchens and lounges. Computer labs and study rooms will either have physical dividers or will be closed in cases when social distancing is not possible.

All common spaces, including community bathrooms, will be cleaned and sanitized in accordance with guidelines from the CDC. In suite-style bathrooms, residents will be prohibited from leaving their personal items in the shared space once they have finished using it.

As additional means of social distancing, each room will be limited to no more than two occupants, there will be limited in-room visitation among residents of the same building and guests from outside the building will not be permitted inside residence halls or apartments.

All ATU students, including those who live on campus, are required to complete a daily health screening at the outset of any day that will bring them to campus and to wear a mask when in a public space and social distancing of six feet or greater is not possible.

Violators of the pandemic-related policies will be subject to the ATU student conduct process.

"We want to attempt to be educational in our response if and when there are cases of non-compliance," said Amy Pennington, ATU associate vice president for student affairs, dean of students and Title IX coordinator. "If a student refuses to comply and is a threat to the health and safety of our university community, interim suspension will be possible."

The mask and daily health screening procedures are applicable to ATU faculty and staff. Guests on ATU campuses are also required to wear masks when in a public space and social distancing of six feet or greater is not possible.

In the event that residential ATU students need to be isolated due to possible exposure to the virus, 50 on-campus beds have been reserved as quarantine spaces.

Co-curricular programming offered by ATU Department of Residence Life personnel to residential ATU students will be conducted through a virtual delivery method.

As an additional means of building community in a virtual environment, ATU resident assistants will each be assigned a cohort of 25-to-30 students. The resident assistants will engage in regular interactions with members of their cohort and facilitate discussions designed to reinforce co-curricular programming.

"The interactions between resident assistants and students will be critical in our continuing education effort during the fall 2020 semester," said Dr. Delton Gordon, ATU associate dean for residence life. "The circumstances of the pandemic will continue to evolve, and we have a responsibility to keep our residential students informed on how to stay safe and healthy. If our residential students are diligent in wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and adhering to the additional protocols we have in place, I believe we will maintain a safe living environment in support of the academic success of our students this fall."

ATU students scheduled to live in university housing during fall 2020 may send e-mail to housing@atu.edu or call (479) 968-0376 for more information.

Visit www.atu.edu/pandemicrecovery to learn more about COVID-19 mitigation and recovery efforts at Arkansas Tech University.