Making us corona-safe

1 september 2020

Seats at Friessalen at the Evolutionary Biology Centre have been marked to ensure physical spacing.

The autumn semester has begun and with it on-campus teaching. The Faculty’s facilities managers have been working intensively to make the campus environments safe during the ongoing pandemic. What preparations have been made to create and maintain a safe environment for students and staff this autumn?

At the Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC) and the Geo Centre, the coordination of preparations was handled by Johan Ledin, director at Campus Lagerträdet; Henning Blom, Head of the Biology Education Centre (IBG); and Anders Jansson, facilities manager at Campus Lagerträdet and representative of the Department of Earth Sciences.

The number of participants in all teaching and meeting contexts is still limited to 50 people. What specific arrangements have you made at EBC and the Geo Centre based on these regulations?

Henning: “Our Centre has given the Biology section instructions on how to interpret the guidelines issued by the Faculty of Science and Technology but also to some extent the directives from the Public Health Agency of Sweden. Since ours is a strict interpretation of the Faculty’s guidelines, an incredibly small part of Biology’s teaching will continue to be on campus. If we leave out semester one of the Bachelor’s programme and equivalent, where perhaps 150 students have a little more on-campus teaching, the other 400-500 students in our study programmes will only have teaching on campus where they absolutely must. This means lab experiments where we are unable to do anything else because the course syllabus requires it. In addition, the number of places in each laboratory space has been reduced by at least half.”

Anders: “The facilities manager has also worked to show us what constitutes good social distancing in our facilities by applying tape to all tables in the labs, communal areas and in lecture halls. We have removed a lot of furniture and properly signposted clear rules of conduct to reduce the spread of infection.”

Johan: “The difficult thing, however, is predicting how people will behave on campus and what the flows of people moving in our facilities will look like. We are doing our best, but we will of course continue to evaluate these preparations and stand ready to make rapid changes if we notice that something is not working or when new guidelines come into effect. Above all, we are trying to safeguard the health of risk groups.”

Good technical foundations

Both EBC and the Geo Centre have a larger number of lecture halls compared to other campuses. These rooms are also equipped with distance education technologies. But if there is a need for updates or new equipment, the facilities manager is prepared to act fast.

Information at the Geo Centre.

In general, the cooperation between the various functions responsible for safety measures has been excellent, according to Johan Ledin. As a teaching department with a full overview of the situation on the ground, IBG has communicated in a coordinated way with the facilities manager at EBC. In addition, there has been good cooperation between the student organisations, the Geo Centre and IBG regarding the reception of new students.

However, at the Geo Centre there are still some questions about how the flows in and out of the building will be managed.

Anders: “It’s a bit more of a problem because there’s only one central entrance and everything that happens inside the building involves people having to pass through it. But their access card system is managed at EBC, where we have arranged separate entrances and exits for example, so that aspect is not a problem.”

Although it is not a priority to receive visitors on campus, what do you think about the possibilities for this during the autumn?

Johan: “I think that our activities need physical meetings too. We can’t have everything via Zoom forever more – we’ll go nuts. I think that hybrid forms are an important variant. This means we can hold meetings with a number of people present with social distancing in place while allowing other people, especially those in risk groups, to dial in or connect to the meeting via video link and participate fully. I think we need to develop this kind of routine for everything from research group meetings to bigger collaborations, discussion seminars, and the work of boards. Otherwise, we will end up in a situation where some will feel left out. The issue of visitors comes into this too, and how we manage visits.”

At the Ångström Laboratory and the ITC building Mikael Jonsson, Director of Campus Polacksbacken, is responsible for coordinating these measures.

What specific arrangements have you made for the Ångström Laboratory and ITC based on the 50-person limit?

“Our goal has been not to schedule more than 300–350 students at the same time in the Ångström Laboratory or in ITC.

“The timetablers have followed the directive on utilising teaching rooms at a maximum of half their nominal capacity. If the room is intended for 40 people, they have only been allowed to timetable groups of up to 20 people.

“Classes have also been adapted and a lunch schedule has been established so that there will be no overcrowded communal spaces at specific times, such as during the usual lunch hour. In Café Ångström, we have reduced the number of tables and marked with stickers  which seats are not to be used in order to increase the distance between guests.

“And we have also arranged things so that the classrooms utilised at Ångström Laboratory are mainly in Buildings 2, 4 and 8, which have classrooms on the ground floor, and in the soon-to-be-opened Building 9. People will have to enter these buildings from the ends so that it doesn’t get too crowded here. Unfortunately, we do not have that option at ITC.”

Clear rules of conduct

Key issuing station at the Ångström
Laboratory.

Hand sanitizer automatic dispensers have been installed at various points throughout

Ångström Laboratory and ITC and these are well signposted with guidelines to reduce the spread of infection. Stickers on the floors indicate the distances to be kept in the queue to Student Services and to the permanent card and key issuing station next to the Ångström Laboratory reception.

Another measure is to enable online teaching for teachers who are concerned or uneasy about being on campus.

“To be as well prepared as we possibly can for what can happen, we have mounted cameras and speaker systems in all teaching rooms at Ångström Laboratory and at ITC. All teachers can now plug in their computers so that students can follow the class via a Zoom link.  This means that the classrooms can also be used for 100 per cent distance education. The teachers can then use the whiteboard in the room rather than having to include and show everything on a small computer screen.”

The Faculty has also issued a strong recommendation to students to only be in the facilities on campus when their timetable requires it. Mikael Jonsson hopes that this recommendation will be followed. The question is also what the facilities managers should do if this recommendation is not followed.

“The Security and Safety Division has raised the question of possibly hiring stewards, or alternatively hiring student hosts, to help remind everyone about keeping their distance from others. But for now we are adopting a wait-and-see policy, and monitoring how the rules on campus are being followed.”

Do you see any possibility of welcoming visitors here during the autumn? Is it feasible to organise study visits, researcher gatherings, etc.?

“It might be if the groups are small. Of course, there are limitations, for example during the student reception period. But if people maintain social distancing and there are not too many people in the same room, it should be possible. We will have to make decisions on requests as we go.”
 

Information tent at the main entrance

Information tent outside BMC.

Outside the Biomedical Centre (BMC) is a tent where students and visitors receive guidance and information about campus card handling. The cards are picked up at the reception where signs, arrows and fences indicate which distances to keep. A number of poster screens and roll-ups with maps will make it easier for new students, as well as information about the MazeMap map system.

"We have also worked with the flow of students in the house, where we closed some doors and opened others, including the emergency exits to the outdoor courtyards," says Daniel Skogehall, facilities manager at BMC. “It provides several passages between the buildings and seems to work well.”

A lot of screens, roll-ups and signs that
guide.

Social distancing applies in all rooms, lecture halls and public areas, and the user of a room is responsible for ensuring that distancing is followed. The action list by BMC:s campus management also states that only students who have scheduled tuition should be on campus, with preference for first semester students as well as practical elements. Every Friday, the campus management sends a weekly report on pandemic action to all three disciplinary domains to keep the entire management structure informed.

"In our latest report, we also described how the Security Department has started recruiting students to act as "distance hosts", which we hope can further contribute to the security of the campus.”