Update: As of March 16, all ESU classes (undergraduate, graduate and doctoral) will transition into online education starting Monday, March 23.
ESU has delayed the return of students to campus until March 22 due to the impact of COVID-19 or Coronavirus. According to an official ESU email, during the extended week, faculty and staff will be on campus working to ensure that student’s “educational and safety needs are met.” Faculty were also told to start converting face-to-face courses to distant or online education in the event that the school will be closed.
“We wanted the extended break because students are home and we don’t know what they came in contact with,” said Dr. Amy Freeman, director of ESU’s health and wellness department. “When you’re on a college campus or in class, you’re in close quarters. Students have a very low chance [of getting COVID-19] but it could spread to faculty and staff and the community at large. We really want to prevent that spread.”
According to the email, residence halls will remain open to student-athletes, international students, and those who live on campus and are actively engaged in student teaching. Students are allowed to retrieve any belongings on Sunday, March 15 that they would need for another week.
Currently, West Chester and Millersville University are the only schools within the Pennsylvania State system that have switched to distant education. There are no reported cases on either campus.
Though the University asked faculty to prepare for distant education, the University is also preparing for the return of students. According to Freeman, Resident Life and Housing have upped their sanitation schedule, going through dorm common areas more often and increased their sanitary products to give to students. Staff and faculty are also getting trained on cleanliness and warning signs of COVID-19.
The University is also in close communication with the Lehigh Valley hospital for any updates on the virus.
“Just because students come back that doesn’t mean our training is over,” Freeman said. “We will continue to monitor the spread of the virus and people who travel off-campus.”
If ESU decides to move to online-only education, the problem of housing, food security, and access comes into play. According to Freeman, ESU has about 2,700 students who live on campus.
“My biggest concern is students who do not have another home besides ESU,” said Leila Bouchekouk, president of the Student Government Association or SGA, “or depending on coming back to campus based on possible poor physical, mental and emotional living environment.”
For students who may be in this predicament, Bouchekouk and ESU urge them to contact Dr. Eugene Kelly, dean of student life at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local students who do not have reliable computer or internet access are encouraged to go use Kemp Library resources. For students who do not live in the immediate area, ESU recommends that students visit their local public library. If this is not possible they can contact their academic advisor or reach out to the Office of the Provost 570-422-3539.
Bouchekouk is also concerned about the health of the student-athletes, some of whom are staying on campus.
“[Members] of SGA and I believe that there should be more regulations to protect our student-athletes,” she said. “Right now they are pretty much the exception for everything which we don’t think is best for them.”
Though there are no reported cases on campus, there are two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Monroe County and one in Northhampton County, according to the PA Department of Health. There are a total of 22 confirmed cases in Pennsylvania.
According to Freeman, students can stay safe by frequently washing their hands, making sure their surface areas are clean, social distancing and staying away from people they believe are sick.
“The biggest things students need to look for are coughing, high fever and sore throat,” she said. “Keep in mind that Coronavirus is a respiratory infection so having a hard time breathing is what makes it different.”
For additional updates, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to check their emails and ESU’s COVID-19 webpage at www.esu.edu/health-and-wellness/coronavirus.cfm
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