Classroom cleaning and social distancing changes

Policies regarding sanitation and social distancing on campus have changed over the last two years due to COVID-19. Students and professors alike continue to adapt to the new changes that come with these policies.

“I would rather be here and have to wear my mask, be separated, and you know, clean the classrooms or whatever. I would so much rather do that than have to be completely separated from everyone and everything,” junior Emma Siverling said.

Siverling experienced the change to virtual learning during her freshman year of college and the return back to in-person classes in her sophomore year.

When in-person learning became the standard again during the 2020-2021 academic year, the university took a conservative approach, requiring the most cautious measures that were backed by science, as Peter Folliard, dean of School of Music, said.

“First it was six-foot distancing, then three-foot distancing became okay,” Folliard said.

He said the university looked to CDC guidelines and scientific research to back policy changes.

Senior Harrison Kuhn, a former teacher’s assistant in the science department, said that social distancing was nice because of the extra space, but the limited capacity had its disadvantages for the lab students.

“It also came with the downside of having, for some of my lab students, an online lab one week and then in-person lab the next week,” Kuhn said.

Vindicator spray was an additional measure used, and extra time was extended between classes to give professors time to spray the desks with it.

However, the vindicator spray was no longer used.

“We found out that the virus is spread through droplets and not on surfaces,” Paul Egland, natural science division chair and microbiology professor said.

Social distancing and classroom sanitation policies have been removed for the current academic year, allowing for larger capacity in classes and labs. In addition, there are now shorter breaks between classes due to the disuse of vindicator spray.

Egland said that the measures during the 2020-2021 academic year made labs difficult because extra precautions were taken to use face shields in the lab and to use goggles with the microscopes.

“The stuff they needed was already delivered so that they didn’t have to move around the room and expose as many people all the time,” Egland said.

In addition, Egland also managed the traffic flow of the room and provided stations on students’ benches. Though many of the adjusted lab procedures are no longer used, he continues to keep students’ materials located on their bench.

Though some adaptations have been continued this year, it is not due to lack of trust in the university, but rather due to learning about more efficient processes.

“Having professors wipe down the classrooms originally was a really good plan and helped me sort of trust Augustana and that they were taking this seriously,” Siverling said. “Not including it now has not made me lose trust in Augustana because we’ve learned more about COVID-19.”

Folliard said that he is “super proud” of what Augustana has done.

The students and professors who discussed their thoughts have demonstrated a continuation of trust in the university, even as classroom sanitation and social distancing policies have been modified.