Student, faculty adapt to COVID-19 pandemic

As many returning students have noticed, Sterling College has changed some of its policies and procedures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

Some prevention plans include no visitation in the dorms, new take out options and serving options in the cafeteria, masks in common areas, daily screenings, social distancing in the café and classrooms, and a completely new scheduling for chapel.

Along with these plans, Sterling has developed a Covid Task Force that is monitoring all Covid-related situations on campus and updating plans accordingly.

“Currently we just provide input and feedback on how procedures are going. We also look to see If there are any new changes in the county and if there are changes how do they affect us and do we need to update the policy at that point,” Vice President of Student Life and member of the Covid Task Force Jason Briar said.

Though there have been no positive or active cases on campus, this task force has a plan shold such an event arise and what the steps that will follow are.

“First positive case will be communicated with all of campus via E2 the alert system. Any following cases will be on the Sterling Together page. All positive tests will go to isolation either here on campus in designated areas away from other students, a hotel room or they may choose to go back home if it’s of reasonable distance,” Briar said.

Briar is proud to see that the procedures and plans have been successful so far.

“I am cautiously excited and still very realistic that we could get some cases, but also very confident we are prepared to handle it,” Briar said. “I also feel like the zero positive cases is a direct reflection of our students and employees taking action and following the plan. I am very proud of them.”

In order to stay ahead of the virus, the campus has also become more vigilant in cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as desks, bathrooms, and tables in the cafeteria.

Along with extra cleaning around SC, Sterling has also made some scheduling changes to the calendar.

This includes fall break, which will fall on Oct. 13 in the middle of the week instead of on the typical Friday. The college will also be going remote after Thanksgiving break for the last two weeks of the fall semester.

“These changes were made considering student and employee’s possible travel during the holiday breaks and mitigation of travel risk and possible needed quarantine upon return to campus,” Sterling College’s website said.

Student Life is not only looking out for the student’s physical well-being but also their emotional wellbeing.

“If Covid is causing extra stress and difficulty in our lives, counseling is beneficial simply to learn and work on how to cope with stress,” campus counselor Lydia Butner said. “It can also be difficult to handle the major changes that are coming alongside this, so learning how to live well in light of uncertainty and change can certainly be a focus of counseling as well.”

Students can schedule a counseling with Butner by emailing her at
lydia.butner@sterling.edu. Students can also email Heather Oden for life coaching at heather.oden@sterling.edu and use the resources at www.ulifeline.org/sterling.

 Spiritual well-being is also a focus for Sterling College, specifically how to make chapel as Covid friendly as possible.

“I know it’s been bumpy. I know it’s been confusing. I’m running the thing, and I feel the confusion of it,” Brandes said. “What I’ve also felt is a lot of patience from students and a lot of grace from students which I really appreciate, and hopefully they know that I want to extend that back.”

In order to accommodate social distancing Brandes has limited seating in Culbertson Auditorium. Originally seating was organized by dorm, but in recent weeks has been changed to a “first come, first serve” basis where students can get their tickets online ahead of time.

“I decided to start in a more restrictive place, and I don’t love doing that. One of my favorite things in the world is a packed-out Culbertson for a double credit chapel and I can’t wait for us to get back to that,” said Brandes. “But we don’t have a huge venue, so we have some challenges in spacing out.”

For students who are unable to get tickets there is an online option through the iAttended app.

“Overall, I’m over the moon about that,” said Brandes. “Once everyone gets it set up it’s miles easier to use and easier to know where you’re at.”

In this application students can watch the previous chapel via video and receive credit for answering a simple question about the message. This has been made possible through Sterling College’s Communication Department, specifically the work of student Jace Brandt

Other changes made to chapel are the number of credits needed — 12 for on campus students and eight for off campus students — and changing Sunday chapels to take place on Friday.

“That was a pre-Covid change we made,” Brandes said. “One of the reasons we made this change was because students’ attendance was very, very low on Sunday nights, and I wanted more people to engage our chapel spaces.”

Overall, Brandes has seen a lot of benefits from these new ideas and hopes to keep some of them around post-Covid.

“Crisis like this force you to innovate and that’s good,” Brandes said.

The Sterling College Athletic Department was in good hands with NAIA Athletic Training Association’s President Elect and SC’s Director of Athletic Training Pete Manely taking the lead of the department’s Covid Plan.

“We created our own athletic department document,” Manely said. “First things first, how are we going to clean and sanitize everything? And from there what is going to be our way to mitigate the risk?”

This document mapped out policies, plans and procures for the college. As part of this plan students are responsible for screening themselves daily, and roughly 25-30 students per day report at least one Covid symptom.

“These kids really want to be in school, not going online. They want to play the sport and activity they are part of, and we have kids who have bought in to what our plan is,” said Manely.

The athletic department also started looking at what ticketing looked like for fans and students attending the events.

“I don’t know why we’d go away from the way we’re doing ticketing right now,” Manely said. “It’s more efficient, it cuts own lines, it’s easier to track people who have been here already, reentry is better.”

Although these screenings and changes have not been easy on the athletic department or athletic training staff, so far, it’s proven to be very effective in the fight against Covid.

“It’s so much work, but if we weren’t doing that I don’t know where we’d be right now,” Manely said. “I think our plan is pretty darn good.”

Other ways students can protect themselves and stop the spread of the virus is by washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before eating, after blowing nose, coughing or sneezing and after using the restroom.

Also, people should avoid sharing drinks or utensils; stay in the dorm or at home when they are sick; avoid close contact with people who are sick; avoid touching their eyes, face, or mouth; socially distance at least six feet whenever possible; and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects or surfaces such as handles, doorknobs, and light switches.

For more information check out Sterling College’s website at sterling.edu.

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