EMU hopes two-week delay and ‘COVID Commitments’ will keep classes on campus

Video and article by Chase Downey, contributor

Editor’s Note: EMU’s campus is closed to visitors. All video of campus was taken from public streets and sidewalks and not from campus property. 

Even after a false start of trying to open last month and James Madison University’s shift to at least a month of mostly online classes, Eastern Mennonite University has brought students back to classes, and campus leaders hope they can remain in person. 

EMU began allowing students to move to campus Sept. 3-6 — two weeks after the original move-in date. The private university pushed back its move-in weekend after four student leaders who were supposed to help with the move-in process had tested positive for COVID-19. 

“We paused for that two weeks to enable time for the quarantine to happen and for us to reopen well,” said EMU’s Dean of Students Shannon Dycus.

The university also delayed in-person classes from starting until Thursday Sept. 10, giving students time to adjust to the university’s safety guidelines and procedures, which it calls “COVID Commitments.” 

They include requiring students to wear masks anywhere on campus, to stay six feet apart from others, to fill out a daily online symptom tracker and to ask that on-campus students travel off-campus only for “essential travel.” 

Dycus told The Citizen in an interview that the in-person reboot that started Thursday to give students “a chance to learn the new protocol for living spaces, eating spaces and now we are engaging in what it means to be in the classroom together.” 

In order to protect students, EMU also has closed the campus to visitors. (Video taken for the piece above was shot from public streets and sidewalks — not from campus property.)

EMU offers free on-campus coronavirus testing for all students and is offering testing for faculty and staff as well, with a current focus on people exhibiting symptoms. 

The university also has isolation spaces for students that might become infected, but did not wish to disclose exactly how many isolation spaces were available to students —  “about 10% of [the] residential student body,” Dycus said. 

Dycus declined to say how many positive cases or filled isolation spaces would prompt EMU to shift to all-online learning. 

“We have identified a percentage of occupancy that if we reach that point we will begin to make another series of decisions,” she said. 

The university also has plans for a coronavirus dashboard to update their information online and said that it was expected to release that soon, she said.

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