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Facilities upgrades on campus. It’s not entirely about COVID-19.

Okay, but at least some of it is in this year of the coronavirus. As students arrived on campus after their successful “Quarientation” downtown, they were greeted with banners and flags of welcome from Houseparents, air hugs from friends and a series of upgrades and modifications to buildings.

The upgrades that included plenty of new signage, some of them with a Pearson twist. For physical distancing, for example, you might see a sign advising you to, “Please Stand 3 Raccoons Apart.” Of course, you really have to be here to fully enjoy that sentiment.

“The signage and renovations are part of the multi-layered actions outlined in our COVID-19 Restart Plan to help ensure we have a safe learning and living environment for our entire community,” says Ty Pile, Vice-President, Operations and Administration. “Along with adjusting to health and safety protocols, such as the wearing of masks and establishing residence house ‘families’ and room ‘pods,’ these signs are tangible reminders of how vigilant we need to be during the coronavirus pandemic.”

To help guide and remind us, he adds, will be interior and exterior signage for campus entry, exit and other directions for health and safety protocols in washrooms and high traffic areas. Physical features to help reduce contact with surfaces such as automatic door openers at 10 high-use entrances (all Student Houses, the Max Bell, Library, Dining Hall, Academic and Administration buildings) and touchless faucets and hand sanitizer stations across campus.

“Many of these products have been in high demand around the world,” adds Pile. “That means we had a few delays in getting everything installed as early as we wished but all doors and faucets have largely been completed, but some shipments of auto-dispensing sanitizers and plexiglass were delayed but most are in place now.”

This past summer, work crews were also busy upgrading Victoria House. All windows and the roof were replaced the hot water system upgraded to improve energy consumption. Extensions to the dayroom and one of the residence rooms were completed in September to improve the living environment for students. Some exterior work to install gutters and replace siding is ongoing.

While a complete renovation of Victoria House this was not possible due to a shortfall in available capital funds, this critical work will protect the building and improve student residence comfort until a full renovation can take place.

Summer season modifications to the Dining Hall were undertaken to create a pandemic-safe environment to prepare and serve individual meals. The area encompassing the food line has been opened up and upgraded with new lighting and flooring to enhance physical distancing and sanitization and to have appropriate space to safely dispense food and beverages during mealtimes.

Signage and directions for physical distancing and traffic flow stanchions have been set up by our food service provider Aramark in accordance with Federal, Provincial and Industry/WorkSafeBC standards. Meanwhile, plexiglass dividers have been set up on 20 tables allowing each to safely accommodate four persons per table during newly-scheduled sittings designed to reduce the number of students in the Dining Hall at any one time. Only students will be eating in the Dining Hall for the time being with staff, faculty, residents able to order meals in advance and pick them up at a separate entrance at scheduled times.

Meal orders are placed through the new College Daily Health Check app rolled out a few weeks ago. Every workday at 6 a.m., all employees receive a link to an app that enables them to do a mandatory health self-check before arriving on campus or, in the case of residents, before going to their designated work areas. Anyone experiencing designated symptoms related to COVID-19 is advised to stay home, monitor their symptoms and, if necessary, contact their health care provider.

The app also tracks how many employees who are commuters will be on campus on any given day. This allows the College to reduce it’s “HR footprint” to about 50 per cent of normal to support distancing and reduce congestion. Many administrative and other staff continue to work from their homes when possible.

To accommodate one-way traffic some additional modifications were required to create a safe Faculty Workspace exit. This new boardwalk and stairs were completed this month. Now, work will begin on new exit pathways from the Administration Building.