Parents stand distanced on the sidewalks, many unable to see their children’s new dorms for themselves. Sounds of rushing cars, rustling packages and quiet “goodbyes” and “good lucks” fill the streets.
Temple University students moved into residence halls for Main Campus move-in today as the university reopened nearly all residence halls since closing them due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Students are being tested on campus the day they move in, with move-in guidelines reflecting Temple’s four health pillars: handwashing, physical distancing, wearing masks and monitoring personal health.
“I’m excited, but I’m also a little nervous,” said Annette Luba, a freshman speech, language and hearing science major who moved into Morgan Hall.
Yesterday, students and faculty groups drove around campus protesting students moving in for Early Arrival. The university is continuing moving forward with its reopening plan as many students told Temple they wanted to be on campus this fall if it could be done safely, Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, wrote in an email to The Temple News.
“I guess I could say they did as best as they wanted to, because what they really could have done is just have everything online and nobody would be back on campus,” said Oluwaseun Ojo, a sophomore psychology major transferring from Widener University who moved into Temple Towers today. “But for them wanting us on campus, I feel like they did a good job with everybody having select times to move in and everybody having to get tested when they get here.”
Two Temple students on campus have tested positive for COVID-19 as of noon today, The Temple News reported.
Temple’s decision to reopen residence halls came in June, when the university announced all halls except Johnson and Hardwick will house students this fall and housing fees will be cut 15 percent this semester to accommodate Temple ending in-person instruction Nov. 20.
Last year, the university housed 5,398 students on campus, according to the Temple University 2019-2020 Factbook.
This week, Temple is expecting 3,700 students to move into campus housing, said Olan Garrett, director of residence life at The Office of University Housing and Residential Life.
University Housing is “right along” with Temple in enforcing the four health pillars, encouraging every student to play their part by pushing them “hard,” while bringing students back to campus, Garrett said.
“We need everybody to play their part on this one,” Garrett added. “We really do.”
MOVE-IN AND TESTING
Students moving into campus housing are allowed to have one person assist them with moving in, Garrett said. University Housing decreased the amount of move-in volunteers and worked to make the process as contactless as possible, he added.
Joan Cass, a childcare worker from Abington, Pennsylvania, felt the university’s move-in protocol made it easier to move students because they were allowed to select their own move-in time, instead of having it pre-assigned.
“I heard it was like a madhouse before, with traffic tied up because everybody was coming at the same time” said Cass, who was helping her daughter Anastasia Cass move into 1940 Hall. “I like how they staggered it.”
The university is prioritizing testing students who are moving into residence halls this week, lived in the residence halls during the summer and traveled from “hot states”, and staff in nursing and housing, said Mark Denys, director of Health Services.
Students moving in before 4 p.m. were asked to book an appointment the same day to get tested for COVID-19 at the Aramark STAR Complex, while students moving in after 4 p.m. are tested the next day. For the 600 students moving in Saturday and Sunday, they will be tested on Monday, Garrett said.
“I think that the testing the day of move-in wasn’t the smartest idea,” said Katianna Lafontant, a freshman public health major who moved into White Hall. “If somebody has corona, then they’re just walking around and spreading it to other people.”
Testing results only indicate if a person has COVID-19 at the time they were tested, not in the hours after the test was administered, Denys said.
“If they go out and do something at night that night or the next day, then that negative result doesn’t mean anything,” Denys added.
Students should receive results within 72 hours after being tested, and University Housing is not asking students to quarantine during that period, Garrett said.
“We’re relying on our student’s responsibility to be able to navigate that, but should a positive test come back, we will move forward accordingly,” Garrett added.
QUARANTINE AND ISOLATION ROOMS
The university did not reopen Johnson and Hardwick Halls due to them being traditional-style dormitories, meaning 40 to 50 students would be sharing bathrooms, versus the “family-style” layout in the rest of the residence halls, where three to four students are sharing common spaces, Garrett said.
“In those suites and apartments, we’re really asking people to do what they have done at home,” Garrett added.
Instead, Johnson and Hardwick Halls are set up for quarantine and isolation rooms for students who test positive to stay in for 14 days.
Students who were assigned to Johnson and Hardwick Halls were able to pick reassignment in other residence halls and in off campus apartment complexes The View at Montgomery, University Village and The Nest. About 350 students were rehoused to these complexes through leases the university acquired, Garrett said.
If a student in campus housing tests positive or has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they should return home to isolate if possible, otherwise they can isolate in Johnson and Hardwick Halls for 10 days. Contact tracing and notification of roommates for students who test positive will be done through Student Health Services, Garrett said.
When University Housing is notified of a positive test, on-call staff will contact the student and provide any assistance needed for entering isolation. Students in isolation will be expected to bring enough personal and class items for two weeks, will be virtually checked on, have food delivered to their door and will be able to use the restroom, Garrett said.
Students who refuse testing will have their ID access revoked to Temple buildings and residence halls until they test, Garrett said.
“Hopefully school isn’t cancelled,” said Nicholas Dignetti, a freshman pre-pharmacy major who moved into 1940 Residence Hall today. “Other schools have already done that, so hopefully we can stay.”
INSIDE THE HALLS
After moving in, students are allowed to visit others within their own residence hall, but not visit other residence halls, Garrett said.
Students will be asked to wear a mask upon leaving their own room, and will be able to access limited-use and de-densified common areas and lounges with occupancy limits, Garrett said.
“I was planning to walk around campus, but just be mindful of everyone around me and wear a mask,” Luba said.
Students who leave the residence hall, either for visiting home or going on vacation, will not have to quarantine upon returning, but asked to continue practicing the university’s four health pillars, Garrett said.
“We know people are going to go and do other things, they’re going to go out, see friends and do all those things, but we’re asking them to play their part in helping keep each other safe,” Garrett added.
University Housing staff will focus on educating students first to comply with safe precautions, but repeated incidents of students engaging in “reckless or uncalled for” behavior will be taken seriously, Garrett said.
Kaitlyn Jeffrey, a sophomore sociology and art double major transferring from Bermuda College, said moving into Temple Towers was challenging coming from Bermuda.
She prefers online classes, but is happy her art classes are in-person this semester, she said.
“Honestly, I know that I’m responsible so I don’t have too many worries in regards to COVID,” Jeffrey added. “It’s a big issue, but I think I’ll be okay.”