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The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

Fall semester meets virus: What to expect


By L. Kincaid Holmes

As Principia College prepares to welcome students back on campus this fall, rules and regulations have been put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the community. 

The St. Louis County Health Department issued a letter to county public and private schools on July 30 urging schools to begin the fall semester “in as virtual of an environment as possible.” The health department made clear it was a “formal recommendation” – not a mandate, wrote college President John Williams, in a July 31 Watercooler announcement.

Principia is continuing plans for a hybrid-learning fall semester, and will remain with the regulations and restrictions detailed by Dean of Students Maya Dietz in a July 27 email. The college administration will continue to closely monitor the circumstances in St. Louis, and is encouraging faculty to plan experiential learning opportunities for early in the semester to allow for all classes to transition to remote learning on November 21.

Dietz attached a document of protocols for living and working on campus to her July 27, making note that while approved, the rules are subject to change throughout the semester, based on changing state or federal regulations or increased case numbers.

This semester, masks and social distancing are mandatory. “We are still discussing what the consequences will be for not abiding by [the rules],” Dietz wrote in the email to students.

After classes transitioned online after Spring Break last semester, there were few students living on campus. Any found breaking campus rules and health regulations were required to self-quarantine, and some were sent home.

This semester will be structured differently than any other. For the first two weeks of classes, students must remain on campus can’t have off-campus visitors. Students won’t be allowed to visit other houses, including common areas, for at least the first week. Hand sanitizer will be readily available, and barriers have been installed in areas that require face-to-face interaction, like the mailroom and the Pub. Floor plans also had to be adjusted to have only singles and doubles for rooming.

Principia College and its sister schools in the SLIAC conference have conferred with each other, discussing each institution’s set of guidelines for students’ return, said Home Life Manager, Mark Hagenlocher. Some schools have even stricter rules regarding testing and even fines for students, faculty, and staff found breaking mask protocol. 

As of July 26, SLIAC announced the postponement of the men’s and women’s soccer seasons to the spring. Men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s tennis may still compete this fall with limits.

Much like a state’s phases for reopening, Principia has a three-step plan to allow for more freedom for students on campus this semester.

Phase Red, anticipated to go from August 30 through September 6 calls for: 

  • No off campus trips
  • No visits in other houses, including common rooms
  • Wearing masks (unless alone, working out, outside alone)
  • No use of in-house kitchen
  • “Grab-n-go” meals from dining
  • Indoor Athletic Facilities open for athletes, by scheduling, outdoor facilities have been set up for socially distant use

Phase Orange, anticipated for September 7 through September 14 calls for:

  • No off campus trips
  • Visits to rec rooms of other houses (with masks and socially distanced, 10 people in rec room at a time)
  • No in-house kitchen access
  • Wearing masks (unless alone, working out, outside alone)
  • “Grab-n-go” meals from dining
  • Indoor Athletic facility use by scheduling for athletes, outdoor facilities have been set up for socially distant use

Phase Yellow

  • Students can go off campus, encourage to for necessity only
  • Masks no longer required in students’ own houses
  • Students can visit other house’s rec rooms, while wearing masks
  • Kitchens in house will be open with limited supplies
  • No social groups larger than 50
  • Dining room open with max capacity of 100 – masks required until sitting down
  • Athletic facilities open to all. A screening process will be at the doors (temperature, survey, cleaning protocols), social distancing will be required, and masks must be worn upon entry – but not necessary during exercise. 

The guidelines are extensive, but “we have to be bigger than ourselves this fall,” said Hagenlocher. Seeing the good in these guidelines helps keep the community together and focused on who we are together. 

Sophie Hills contributed to this report.

Featured photo by Dennis Umpleby on Unsplash

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