A passerby walks through WMU's Sangren Hall.

A passerby walks through an almost empty Sangren Hall on Friday March 13.  

On Monday, the Office of the President provided an update for the return-to-campus planning for the fall semester.

The email said that the university’s preparations for the return of students to campus will take the next step.

Several student-facing offices and residence hall staff will soon be opening. Also, on Sept. 2, Students at WMU will begin their fall classes.

The email said that the COVID-19 Response Coordination Team spent the summer planning to establish department-level protocols and practices that will guard against the exposure and spread of the coronavirus.

“In addition to these thoughtful strategies designed to safeguard our community, it's equally critical that our efforts to manage a public health crisis engage and enlist the public,” the email reads. “All of us play a critical part in fostering a safe environment by adopting behaviors that mitigate spread.”

The email also mentioned that last week, six members of the College of Aviation community tested positive for COVID-19, which was likely the result of a gathering where masks and distancing were not observed consistently, the email said.

“We hope their symptoms will be mild and their recovery speedy, but we also hope the lessons learned from this experience will be long lasting,” the email reads. “While students, faculty and staff have adhered to health and safety protocols when at the aviation college, it appears that wasn't the case for one off-campus activity. As Aviation Dean Dave Powell wrote in his notification to the college, ‘The disease does not clock out when you leave campus.’”

The email also mentioned that the Mid-American Conference announced that fall sports will be postponed. 

“While this is a loss for our student-athletes and our community, I wholeheartedly support this decision because it puts student-athlete safety and well-being first,” the email reads. “In general, it is difficult to practice physical distancing or wear a mask while competing or practicing in sports. This is especially true in contact sports such as football and soccer. They simply do not allow for the safety measures we will employ in classrooms and labs, where physical distancing and masks will be universal precautions.”

It is asked that the WMU community stays informed by reading messages that come through to their email and visiting the Safe Return Plan website, COVID-19 response website, and departmental websites. It's clear that 2020-21 will be atypical in many ways, but we will traverse it successfully together. 

New developments have also been added to the Safe Return Plan, according to the email.

The Safe Return site now offers guidelines on using outdoor spaces and holding indoor and outdoor gatherings, in accordance with state directives, Kalamazoo County public health guidance and WMU's own health and safety plan. The guidelines detail the number of people permitted to gather in one location and circumstances.

Also, for the Fall Semester, the WMU Parking Services permit system will go virtual. This will replace physical parking tags and stickers. 

Textbooks, course materials, technology and gear are also available to order online on the WMU Bookstore’s website. Contact-free home delivery will also be provided. Pickup will be available Aug. 18 when the bookstore opens in the Bernhard Center. Curbside pickup will be available closer to the start of school in front of the building.

A limited number of customers will be allowed in the store at one time to accommodate physical distancing. Masks will be required and order pickup lines will reflect 6-foot distancing. 

Also, a number of state-of-the-art cleaning processes are being employed to mitigate spread of COVID-19. This includes antimicrobial solutions, electrostatic disinfecting equipment and new UV light equipment.

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