Employees Begin Gradual Return to Campus: Phase I Starts Next Week

The Fulbright Statue in the courtyard of Old Main stands sentinel over a quiet campus. During Phase 1 of returning to campus, a limited number of employees will return.
Cheiko Hara, University Relations

The Fulbright Statue in the courtyard of Old Main stands sentinel over a quiet campus. During Phase 1 of returning to campus, a limited number of employees will return.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A limited number of employees will begin returning to campus as needed on Monday, June 15, the official start of the first phase of the university's Returning to Campus guide.

"The goal is for employees who have to return to campus to do so safely and gradually when possible," said Laura Jacobs, associate vice chancellor and chief of staff for the chancellor. "Employees are required to wear a face covering, keep six feet apart, wash their hands often and if sick, stay home."

In preparation for the start of Phase I, the Office of Human Resources and the Office for Equal Opportunity and Compliance hosted an educational session June 10 to help answer questions and provide supervisor guidance for returning employees to campus.

The state of Arkansas will move to its Phase 2 of reopening this Monday and provided directives for state agencies — and public universities — with specific guidance, which differs slightly from the guidance for businesses. For example, for state agencies — including the U of A — the distancing formula of 6-feet separation remains, summer camps remain canceled through August, and business travel is suspended with an individual appeal possible.

The university's COVID-19 Response Team continues to develop decisions while many details are still being worked out. The following includes updates from the group's most recent meeting.

COVID-19 Response Team Updates

Leads Committee
The U of A Covid-19 Response Team welcomed Dr. Naveen Patil, medical director of infectious diseases at Arkansas Department of Health. At the permission of Secretary Nate Smith, Patil will be a formal partner to the response team leads committee to provide guidance, validation and address any potential concerns about the university's plans, as well as serve as an official conduit to ADH for the U of A. He reports that guidance for institutions of higher education is forthcoming.

Academic Affairs
Facilities Management will measure and post the room capacity necessary to maintain 6-feet of personal distancing for all classrooms. The formula of six feet of distance between people is calculating at about a 20-25% capacity for most of our larger classrooms and up to 33% for the smaller ones. The classroom schedule will be ready soon, hopefully by July 1. Students will be encouraged to leave buildings immediately after class as open air is a "different ballgame," according to Patil.

The committee will continue examining study spaces and has been encouraged to evaluate spaces where normal congregation occurs either to close those areas or to space the furniture accordingly. 

With the cancellation of fall break, the committee is evaluating whether to add those two days to Thanksgiving break to make it a full week.

Finally, additional specifics regarding the requirement to wear face coverings on campus (when social distancing is not possible) are being considered as well as the frequency of a student symptom self-assessment, and whether to acquire (or make) face shields for faculty.

Events
A process for U of A social events is being created. It's likely there will be an approval form and depending on the ADH registration/approval requirements, there will be a centralized process for submitting those. Currently, the campus is not holding in-person events at least until August, and when events are allowed, they will be following ADH guidance about events including use of face coverings, distance, and group size — at least until guidance for institutions of higher education is released.

A class is not considered an event. Sporting events are a whole different category and protocols are being created for those as well.

Travel
The university is reviewing travel guidance but the current state is this: All university-sanctioned and sponsored out-of-state travel — both domestic and international — remains suspended until further notice. Appeals may be made to the appropriate dean or vice chancellor. An appeal form is in development.

All university-sanctioned and coordinated summer and August intersession study abroad programs are still canceled. A recommendation is forthcoming for fall and spring study abroad programs. More information can be found at the Study Abroad COVID-19 website.

14-day quarantine period may be required for travelers who visited a "hot spot" prior to entering Arkansas, according to a current ADH directive.

In addition, those who have traveled to or from a country with a CDC travel advisory of Level 2 or higher within the last 14 days, please call ADH at 1-800-803-7847.

Cleaning and Disinfecting
Nearer the start of the fall semester, a kit will be provided to every employee for the cleaning and disinfecting of their personal workstation. This will free up custodial staff to put more focus on high traffic and high touch areas. The kit will include wipes, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer and a washable face covering.

Until then, regular custodial service will be provided to individual offices. Please let the Facilities Management service desk know if you are changing/increasing the occupancy of your buildings.

A similar kit will be provided to students with hand sanitizer, face coverings and other relevant items. The distribution plans for both kits will be communicated when the supplies arrive.

Water fountains will be evaluated and either decommissioned or replaced by water bottle dispensers, where feasible.

If you have transaction areas or public interface areas that require a plexiglass shield, then please submit a service request to Facilities Management for an evaluation prior to installation.

Facilities Management will be making adjustments to the air-handling systems to allow for more outside air to circulate within the system to mitigate any potential virus in the air flow.

Communications
A signage package for campus facilities is being created and installation will occur first in academic and general buildings, housing and athletics facilities. A plan for determining the locations is underway. Signs will be both digital and print/vinyl.

Communications campaigns are being developed to reinforce everything from face coverings to keeping congregating to a minimum. 

Financial
Please continue to track your Covid-19 disruption-related expenses for finance and administration. There may be a central fund for expenses or reimbursement through the CARES Act.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3 percent of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

John F. Thomas, manager of university communications
University Relations
479-871-7620, jfthomas@uark.edu

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