Colleges, students contend with finding housing solutions during pandemic

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Jordan Hamann studies in an empty bedroom at his apartment in Provo on Monday, July 20, 2020.

Jordan Hamann studies in an empty bedroom at his apartment in Provo on Monday, July 20, 2020. | Yukai Peng, Deseret News

PROVO — Utah colleges are facing myriad issues when it comes to finding ways for students to return to their housing safely this fall while mitigating the potential spread of coronavirus in highly concentrated conditions.

College housing tends to be small. Several young adults are often packed into a space together — particularly in dorms or on-campus housing, which makes social distancing difficult.

Utah universities say they are aware of the issues and are striving to develop plans that will reduce some of the risks associated with living in these conditions, however some students still have concerns.

“The ideas are great, the plans that they have in place I do feel confident in them. I do think that BYU is taking it seriously,” said BYU senior Jordan Hamann. “But I am concerned how the enforcement will be dealt with because you can encourage all you want, but if people decide not to follow your encouragement, I could still get sick.”

Changes like reducing the number of people living inside of a unit, requiring masks, restricting visitors and implementing phased move-in dates are examples of some of the policies universities are implementing or strongly encouraging in hopes of mitigating spread of the virus.

Still, as Hamann pointed out, a lot comes down to personal accountability and can differ between on-campus and off-campus housing.

On-campus housing

Many Utah colleges like the University of Utah, BYU and Utah State University all offer on-campus housing that is overseen by the university. When COVID-19 first broke out in the state and students were encouraged to return home, these schools were able to release occupants from their contracts without penalty.

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For this upcoming fall semester, BYU and USU have announced a phased return to campus that will occur across multiple days starting in mid-August. BYU’s housing website says this process will “facilitate physical distancing and help ensure no signs or symptoms of illness are present before students return to classes.”

The University of Utah has space for about 4,000 students to live on-campus this upcoming semester, according to Lexie Maschoff, assistant director for communications and assessment for the Department of Housing and Residential Education.

She said the university is undergoing a variety of policy changes pertaining to fall housing in order to best support the health of the community.

For example, the school has done away with units that house three to four occupants and is instead sticking solely with single and double occupancy. Guests will not be permitted inside any of the apartment areas during fall semester.

“Those adjustments to the guest policy is just in an effort to minimize the number of people that we have within our resident hall community areas to help mitigate exposure in that way,” Maschoff explained.

Face coverings will also be required in on-campus residential areas when the student is outside of their immediate room or …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News

      

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