Scripps College released details of its plan to return students to campus in the spring in an email to students Monday. If given the go-ahead from Los Angeles County, the college would implement measures such as same-day COVID-19 testing and a contact tracing app.
Scripps President Lara Tiedens said the college is “well prepared” to reopen Jan. 25, the first day of the spring semester. However, reopening hinges on future approval from the county, as current protocol does not allow students to live on campus unless they have no alternative housing options.
“When state and county guidelines allow institutions of higher education in Los Angeles County to resume on-campus instruction and residential programming, Scripps College will be ready,” Tiedens said in the email.
It’s unclear when that will be.
The email comes the same day LA County reports 6,124 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, breaking its record for daily recorded cases. Statewide, a mandatory overnight stay-at-home order is in place until Dec. 21 as the state’s daily case count is at a seven-day average of 11,591 as of Nov. 23.
According to current projections, campus return plans are “likely to be delayed,” Tiedens said, citing updates from medical advisors and the LA County Department of Public Health. In that case, the school is “exploring alternative return dates later in the semester,” Tiedens said.
The email did not detail the college’s full plan but mentioned plans for testing, contact tracing and social distancing.
The college would provide testing twice a week to students, faculty and staff who choose to return to campus with same-day results. The email did not specify if these tests would be mandatory.
The plan notes that the Scripps community would have access to a smartphone app that would “assist with contact tracing, provide interactive health screening and checklists and facilitate access to medical staff.”
Dining, classroom, residential and office spaces have been modified to include “advanced filtration to reduce allergens, bacteria and virus spread and touchless technology and plexiglass barriers,” the email said.
The Malott Dining Hall has been remodeled to include touchless faucets, plexiglass partitions between cook stations and new stainless prep stations to provide more distance between staff, Josh Reeder, executive director of facilities management and auxiliary operations, told TSL.
The college has prepared 44 off-campus spaces for quarantining and isolating students who test positive for COVID-19 or have been in contact, Scripps Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson said in a listening session Nov. 13. The added rooms would free up space for students to have private bathrooms in accordance with public health guidelines, Johnson said.
Students would need to pre-determine their social “pods,” which will range from five to as many as seven students, if returning to campus, Johnson said. Students in the same pod could interact in private spaces without wearing masks.
Scripps is also currently preparing to offer hybrid classes — in which the same class offers in-person and online instruction — should the campus reopen in the spring, according to Associate Dean of Faculty Jennifer Armstrong.
As of Nov. 13, the college is testing out outdoor classroom tents and has equipment for five of these hybrid classrooms. These tents would have microphones and large monitors for remote students to participate, Armstrong said.
About a quarter of the classes would have an in-person option, according to Armstrong, though faculty will ultimately decide whether to conduct their class hybrid or online-only.
In contrast, Pomona College administrators have said class will be online for the spring semester regardless of whether students return.
California continues its state-wide limited stay-at-home order affecting 41 counties including L.A. County. Non-essential activities and gatherings with people outside of the members of your household are prohibited between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The next update will come in mid-December, “at which point we hope to have more information about next semester,” Tiedens said in the email.
Jaimie Ding SC ’21 is from Vancouver, Washington.