Reshaping the school for COVID learning

Averie Kiesewetter, Reporter

For a few weeks, students experienced a sliver of normality with blended learning, a combination of remote and in-person instruction. The day-to day school proceedings were far from usual, and were created by many departments at ISU and principal Andrea Markert, amongst others.

After months of planning and preparation, and after in-person schooling was pushed out through most of October, the students wee, at last, able to walk these halls once more.

John Goodman, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, was one of the many prominent contributors for the preparation of ISU’s campus as well as the laboratory schools.

Since March, Goodman and his team held several meetings where they discussed what they had to do to make sure the university was able to maintain structure while keeping every student and faculty member safe.

“We started our days at eight thirty in the morning with a briefing on numbers of cases, elevated number of cases, what’s the tipping point to sending everyone home, and learning the infrastructure that’s needed to do remote learning,” Goodman said.

Goodman also had to consider how the preparation and maintenance of the school was going to be carried out.

“And I mean, there’s a lot of a lot of players, a lot of moving parts,” Goodman said.

One of those players is Preston Sweeny, supervisor of the building trades. Sweeny and his co-worker, Ali Crozer, were assigned to front run the task force that kept every department informed and made sure every need was met in terms of physical protections.

While Crozer reached out to departments to find out what each classroom needed and what each faculty member required to be able to feel safe at work, Sweeny had to make sure that the university was getting every material required.

“She would set up a meeting with all these people and Ali and myself and then members from Health and Safety would go meet with each of these groups and do like a assessment,” Sweeny said.

A large variety of materials had to be gathered including stickers and tape to map out spaces for social distancing, plexiglass barriers, of which Sweeny had to find a way around the flooded market. He even went as far as to getting U-High our own green and gold tape.

Facilities Planning and Construction surveyed spaces and drew out each classroom to make sure everyone was properly set up to comply with social distancing. The Heating and Cooling Plant came to the building and increased the fresh air intake by 40% which means our whole schools air system gets two and a half more air changes then we did before. Janitorial staff also contributed to overcoming the challenge presented by COVID by essentially work three times more to ensure every space is well cleaned, and that all the high contact surfaces are properly sanitized.

Though unable to give a number to the cost of all that the university had to put into properly adapting campus to the new reality, Sweeny time and time again said, “It would probably boggle your mind the amount of money it actually was”

Markert said that U-High was fortunate in that the university covered the costs of preparing school halls and classrooms for the students’ return.

Although Markert had to handle the transfer of assistant principals in the middle of transferring the school into COVID-mode, with the help of other faculty members, she was able to ensure the school was safe and ready for students to re-enter the building.

“Of course, student safety comes first, and I work for you,” Markert said. “So I will always abide by what they say that we should do.”

Markert’s statement came at the end of week three of blended learning. As of Thursday, November 19, the school shifted once more to all remote learning due to the increase of cases in the area

The current plan is for students to return to blended learning on January 19.