King’s sent an email to incoming students on June 26th confirming that residences will be open this fall at half capacity.
The Watch obtained a copy of the email, in which the Dean of Students Katie Merwin outlines some of the changes coming.
“I am happy to inform you that our residences at King’s will be open for Fall 2020,” writes Merwin. Residences will operate at 50% capacity pending further public health regulations, and the school is guaranteeing everyone who applied and paid their fees a single room.
According to King’s Student Union Student Life Vice President Mason Carter, the university is planning to organize the Bays into floors with four people and Alex Hall into groups of six to eight people, but it is unclear what the layout will look like.
The announcement comes on the heels of King’s and Dalhousie suspending most in-person classes, along with most other Nova Scotia universities.
Merwin writes that the University is “working on plans and measures to allow a gradual and responsible physical reopening of campus” when directives from Nova Scotia public health allow it.
The email lists these measures: “
- Designated bathroom facilities to reduce the number of students sharing bathrooms
- The enforcement of physical distancing, including renovations to existing campus spaces
- Enhanced cleaning by custodial staff and making available disinfectant supplies to students
- Modifications to Prince Hall to allow for in-person dining
- Separate designated quarantine space in case of illness and robust protocols for response to illness
- Adapted move-in process with arrangements for 14-day self-isolation as necessary for students
- Additional student conduct expectations to comply with applicable public health rules”
This is only the first stage, says Merwin, and things are still likely to change with new directives. She says that there will be a “larger plan to welcome all students back to campus under conditions that will similarly protect their health and safety, when that becomes possible.”
The University identified that they are taking steps to ensure accessibility, stating that applicants are “asked to self-identify on their residence application if they will experience barriers to online education (e.g. limited access to reliable internet, need academic accommodations better met by living on campus, etc.), so their application can be prioritized.”
SLVP Carter says that they have been giving input to Dean Merwin on residence and safety on campus, and they’re proud of how far things have come.
The process was meant to be flexible, both to accommodate students and changing public health guidelines in the future, says Carter. “Everything is really subject to change.”
“We’re aiming to have the Bays around family size, so we can really contain any risk,” says Carter. They explained that in order to balance socialization and safety, they had to keep living environments small. The rooms will be organized into small groups to ensure proper health protocols can be assured.
Carter said that upper-year residences will work similar to normal with a reduced capacity. “We want to try having first-years socialize with upper years,” says Carter. “I think it will work similarly to an RA. Upper-years had a bit of time at the end of last year to experience all of this, so we can see about getting their help.”
Carter says the school is taking time to ensure that the mental health of students on campus was taken into consideration. “We made sure that residences were like little home environments, where students can divide up space as a living environment in one part and a working space in another,” they said referencing the Bays.
“Katie [Merwin] has been working tirelessly to make sure that the experience remains good, and she doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. She lives on campus, she takes these kids as her responsibility, and takes it on well. She’s just as scared and frazzled as all of us. Kudos to her!”
Dean Merwin finishes her email by stating that, although this won’t be a normal year, “the strength of students’ contributions to our community are what make King’s special – and that will be no different in the year to come.” She also urges students to contact her and her team with questions.
We’ve reached out to Dean Merwin for comment at a later date, please watch for updates in the coming days.