College of Charleston is converting an entire dorm into an isolation area as school officials prepare non-classroom spaces like dining halls and living spaces for students to return to the urban campus while the coronavirus continues to spread as part of the school's Back on the Bricks plan.
The college's Buist Rivers residence hall will be used as an isolation dorm during the coming semester, according to campus health officials. In all other residence halls, capacity in rooms and suites has been reduced, with school leaders saying student housing has been "de-densified" during a July 22 virtual town hall meeting to lay out plans for students and parents. Online, the College notes Buist Rivers Residence Hall is not being assigned during the 2020-2021 school year.
Campus residents will not be able to check in visitors and common spaces like game rooms, lounges and kitchens will be closed to promote social distancing. Laundry rooms will have limited capacity and may require scheduling. Face coverings will be required in open spaces like hallways and elevators.
If students living on campus begin to show symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, they will be moved to Buist residence hall to isolate "for the determined amount of time," CofC campus physician Dr. Dee DiBona said during the presentation.
Students who are quarantining in their own on-campus rooms after suspected exposure and those who are in isolation after exhibiting symptoms will be delivered meals by the College. Off-campus residents are asked to quarantine or isolate at their own residences, but will not be provided meals. Campus health services will check on all students in quarantine or isolation, DiBona said.
With all the changes, school officials are doing what they can to make it work.
"We are working to secure additional beds in an effort to accommodate all students who completed their housing application and are still interested in housing available through the College of Charleston," a campus email informed students on July 1.
No student who completed their housing contract by June 1 will be removed from housing, according to school spokesman Mike Robertson. "We wanted to be transparent with students about the new reduced housing model, so that is why we extended the option of being released from the contract."
CofC President Andrew Hsu announced Tuesday that the start of in-person classes during the fall semester would be delayed until Sept. 14 — a change that also pushes back residence hall move-in, with new dates TBA. Classes will begin online only on Aug. 25.
Life on campus even outside the residence halls will be recognizably different for students, especially inside dining facilities, which will operate until Dec. 15, when campus closes for the semester.
All on-campus dining locations will take steps to maintain social distance, but school officials say they weren't worried about overcrowding due to the large capacity of most dining facilities, and that everyone should be able to grab a bite at meal times.
"There are several locations where you can use meal plan swipes, even if it's at some of the convenience stores and those types of things," said Resident District Manager Adam Nevill. "So, there are other options if one location happens to be busy." To-go options will also be made readily available.
The Back on the Bricks plan also includes changes to the academic side of the college.
Most classes will be converted to a "blended instruction" format, including a mix of in-person and online instruction to limit the number of people in classrooms. Moreover, students should not expect to be in traditional in-person classes for every meeting of most courses. Roughly 20 percent of courses will be completely online.
Students will also not return to in-person classes after the Thanksgiving holiday. Instead, classes will move online beginning Nov. 30.