RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina State University took steps to protect students as the start of the fall semester looms.
Using guidance from the state and the CDC, the University made changes to space layouts across campus.
Whether students are lounging, learning, or eating – things will be different his fall.
In accordance CDC recommendation, facial coverings are required for everyone on campus at all times. They must be worn indoors and outdoors.
State law does not allow the university to open up its fitness centers but NCSU is already making changes for a time when restrictions are lifted.
“It’s not going to be the same. It’s definitely going to be weird. It’s going to be different. We recognize that but ultimately we want to make sure that students that are coming to NC State are having the same experience that they would have had last year or the year before,” said Eric Hawkes, executive director of wellness and recreation.
Hawkes said most machines are about 12 feet apart. He said the cardio area is the biggest concern.
“We’re learning more and more about the virus, is it aerosols and all that so again another layer of protection that we created were these pods to just try to help people. If I’m sweating, and running on a treadmill, you can’t walk in front of me. We have that added barrier,’ said Hawkes.
Machines are surrounded by a three-wall partition. Those partitions were built using PVC pipes and shower curtains.
Students will be asked to sign up for 75 minute exercise shifts. In between those shifts, staff will disinfect surfaces throughout their facilities.
To distance students, equipment is spread out throughout the main gym. Some exercise equipment were relocated to places like an indoor basketball court that will not be in use this fall. This allows more students to access fitness machines while not overcrowding one location.
Watch the video below to see what you can expect from campus gyms.
Classrooms may differ depending on the setting. In a lecture hall style class, only every other seat will be occupied. Every other row will be closed off to keep students four to six feet apart.
In a classroom with rows of tables, seats are staggered and spaced out to allow for four to six feet of distance in all directions.
Stickers indicating where students can sit will be installed in classroom.
For environments where students face each other, there will be six to eight feet of distance rather than four to six to keep students safe.
“We don’t take that lightly. It’s a responsibility we all bear and I think we’ve done a significant and through job of preparing for those students to be here,” said Morton.
Plexiglass was placed between students and the professor’s desk for an additional barrier. Mobile plexiglass barriers can also be found. Those will be used by students should they need to present something to the class.
While Hawkes expressed concerns of COVID-19 spread through airborne particles rather than droplets – a theory supported by some UNC Chapel Hill professors and acknowledged by the CDC- Morton said that was not being considered in the classroom setting.
“The concern is that’s being spread through media or other circle without a lot of science to back it up,” Morton said.
Morton said the university would never put students in buildings that were unsafe.
At Talley Student Union, there will be fewer opportunities for lounging.
Some furniture was removed and others distanced to keep large numbers of people from congregating.
Anyone looking to eat at Student Union restaurants are encouraged to pre-order their food.
Students can order food from the Grubhub app then pick up their food or have their food delivered.
While students could usually go to the information desk and receive resources or help in paper form, they are now encouraged to scan a QR code with their smartphone to receive those resources digitally.
Tim Hogan, director of student centers at NCSU, said it was important to offer a true campus experience for students.
“If they were going to come back to campus and stay in their residence hall room the entire time, it would be just as easy for them to stay at home,” Hogan said.
Directional signs, increased hand sanitizer and protective plexiglass are now installed throughout the student union.
Hogan didn’t rule future changes if some
“Depending what happens during the fall semester. we’ll work with the university leadership to make changes as necessary, whether its reducing capacity or reducing access to the building, we’ll do that. We’re optimistic that we’ll be successful with our students in the fall,” Hogan said.
Students are encouraged to look at food menus online before heading to the dining halls. Once there, they must pick food selection line to limit intermingling. Those lines are roped off and have social distance and directional markers.
There will be less indoor dining tables available as some are closed off to keep diners safely distanced.