BUCKHANNON – West Virginia Wesleyan College enacted a universal mandatory mask policy and prepared for the possibility of students having to quarantine before any of them ever returned to campus.
John Bohman, director of safety and security at West Virginia Wesleyan College, spoke during the March 2 Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur meeting to discuss the polices that were put in place to protect students, college faculty and staff, and Buckhannon-Upshur community members from COVID-19.
“One of the first things we ended up doing is going around to make sure all of our offices were safe. We assessed who needed Plexiglas and spatial types of seating, and we went through every single space on campus, making our larger spaces classrooms,” Bohman said. “That way we can appropriately socially distance our students.
“We made almost all of our spaces about 40 percent their normal capacity and that has been a very good move on our part with the contact tracing, and it’s proven to really reduce the ones that need to be placed in quarantine,” Bohman added.
Bohman said Wesleyan has gone through almost four 55-gallon drums of alcohol spray by putting the spray in every classroom and asking faculty and students to carry some.
“That is something that our local health department really advocated for – it’s great, you spray and in 10 seconds, it kills COVID, and you don’t have to wipe it down or anything, so it’s very safe for our personnel, just to be able to spray and walk away, Bohman said.
Wesleyan is also using peroxide to fog the various rooms on campus such as locker rooms, classrooms, the library and the mailroom.
“There’s two things we learned while increasing the capacity for quarantine; [first] we set a whole dormitory aside for that, and that’s helped out tremendously for us,” Bohman said. “We also required a negative COVID test to be administered seven days before the student arrived, and that was key for us to have that … and 43 students were identified in that testing before they left their home community to come to Buckhannon.”
Students in quarantine on campus are given the option to participate in their classes virtually.
“That’s something our faculty and staff have worked really hard to do, and I give them a lot of praise for their quick [adaptation] to those different modalities of teaching, and I think it’s been wonderful to watch that partnership we have with our faculty to make sure our students are able to get the the instruction they need,” Bohman said.
Wesleyan also implemented a travel policy for the first two or three weeks where the campus was in a bubble, so campus would not have any visitors, and students were not permitted to leave Upshur County and come back without a good reason.
“Those first three weeks were so successful that we decided to extend that for the entire semester, and our students will have to apply to go home or whatever leave they need. Obviously, if you’re going home for medical appointments, we allow that, but not just for the sake of going home and visiting their friends and maybe going out,” Bohman said. “These kids today they like socializing and partying or whatever, and we wanted to really prevent them from going back to Morgantown or Clarksburg and coming back in and bringing the virus back.”
Students on campus are tested randomly on a weekly basis.
“For the remainder of this semester, we’re testing 10 percent of our students on a weekly basis; every Wednesday night, I’m testing anywhere from 60 to 80 students, who were randomly selected. Those in our athletic department are tested heavily,” Bohman said. “We have about 50 percent of our students who are athletes, and for right now, all the high impact sports like football, volleyball and basketball are testing three days a week.”
Bohman said the state provides WVWC with all the testing materials they need.
“We’re fortunate that the State of West Virginia has actually provided us with all the testing that we need right now,” he said. “They mandated that we test everybody upon arrival during that first week and then within that 10–14-day period, we’re able to test everybody again, so everybody got to tested within 10 to 14 days, which is really good.”
WVWC also has its own community COVID-19 dashboard, which may be accessed here.