With traditional classes starting at the University of Mount Olive on Tuesday, August, 25, many parents and students are wondering what to expect in regards to COVID-19 protocols.
According to Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. David Hines all UMO traditional courses will be offered through a hybrid model. “We have taken this step to cut the traffic in our academic buildings in half,” he said. “All students and professors will be required to wear masks, which cover the mouth and nose, and sanitize their hands upon entrance and exit to classrooms.”
Hines explained that in the hybrid model, classes will be divided, so that half the group will meet for class one day and the other half will meet during the next assigned class day. “Other course materials will be delivered via a virtual format,” he said.
Additional measure include classrooms being configured to promote physical distancing, cleaning supplies and instructions being made available for sanitizing desks and surfaces between classes, and enforcing a strict mask policy, that carries stiff penalties for nonconformity. “We are taking COVID-19 very seriously, and we want our students to do the same for their own health and for the health of those around them,” Hines said. “If we do the right things now, by wearing masks, keeping social distance, and washing hands and surfaces, then we should be able to prevent the spread of the virus, and continue to offer seated classes. We realize students want to be able to come to campus and have a normal college experience. Normal is just going to look a little different this fall.”
Senior vice President for Student Affairs and Athletics Dr. Dan Sullivan, has led the UMO COVID-19 Task Force in putting together a one-stop information source for all things COVID. That resource can be located on the UMO website at https://umo.edu/covid19response/.
“We encourage faculty, staff, and students to thoroughly review and familiarize themselves with all of the information included in the COVID-19 website,” said Sullivan. “We have worked really hard to make sure we are addressing all areas and needs, and have put an enormous amount of work into centralizing this information for easy access and comprehension.”
According to Sullivan, during move-in, all new and returning students will be required to undergo a health screening that includes temperature check, questionnaire, and talk with Director of Health Services Holly Daly. Students will not be allowed to have guests assist with move-in this year. “This limits potential exposure,” said Sullivan.
Welcome week activities will also look a little different for fall 2020. “While we are still encouraging and promoting student activities, we are just doing them a bit differently,” said Nicole Garrett, Director of Campus Life. “We are placing an emphasis on making connections, just in a different way. Activities are being planned that will control space and limit touch points.”
Garrett indicated some of the activities include BINGO from multiple locations, a stress bag relief activity, building bears, creating succulent planters, a mobile escape room, and many others. UMO has also invested in a live-stream service that provides students with access to over 250 movies from the comfort of their rooms.
“We are still encouraging social interactions,” said Sullivan. “We just want it to occur outside of the residence halls. Our basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts will be open, as will be the track and the fire pits. Once state restrictions are lifted, Pope Wellness Center will also be accessible for students.”
Beyond the physical health and wellbeing of students, Sullivan and his staff are placing an emphasis on the mental health of students. “We have signed with a new vendor, Simplicity Counseling, out of Goldsboro,” Sullivan said. “They have a diverse staff of psychologists and a psychiatrist that can write prescriptions.” Sullivan noted that Simplicity Counseling will be available to students by appointment, which can be scheduled through the UMO Health Services Office.
“Everybody at UMO is invested in us having classes and continuing some type of normalcy,” Sullivan said. “Our #1 priority is to keep people safe and help them earn their degrees. We understand that there is nothing normal about wearing a mask, but the simple things we do now will help us get to the end quicker, so patience goes a long ways. We will likely have cases of COVID, but if we are all doing the things we need to such as washing hands, keeping six foot distance, and wearing a mask, then we should be able to contain the virus and continue to have a productive and promising fall semester.”