By Ariana West
Living in the dorms on campus, not only here at Simpson, but for all colleges, is a fun and exciting part of the college experience that gives students a sense of community. This year because of the nationwide pandemic known as COVID-19, the on campus living experience is very different compared to past years. Creating that strong community feel, while also keeping students safe has been a challenging balance, said Brian Howell of Residence Life.
According to a tweet by CNN, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the majority of schools in California would not open for in-person learning this fall. Fortunately, Simpson was located in a county not on the state watch list which is why we were able to return to campus. Of course this year is very different from last year in many ways.
Private and public schools in 33 of California’s 58 counties -representing more than 80 percent of the state’s population - will be required to close, according to a CNN tweet. Luckily Shasta County had a low enough number of COVID cases that allowed Simpson University to fully reopen. According to the local paper, The Record Searchlight, in an article published on Sept. 28, the number of COVID cases has stayed under 1,000 since the pandemic started in March.
Howell said that there is a COVID Committee which made plans for us to return to campus safely. These plans include social distancing, wearing masks, limited visitation hours, and staying quarantined if COVID symptoms are experienced. These safety guidelines are a part of High Safety Protocol(HSP).
Under the guidance of the COVID committee, HSP should be lifted and visitation hours may be modified soon. However, this is up to the committee not Residence Life Howell said.
According to Dean of Students Mark Endraske, “If the case count at Simpson stays low, and the county stays off the California monitoring list, then we should have more flexibility with the county and our guidelines. If students and staff/faculty are able to follow the COVID guidelines, then we should have more flexibility as well.”
Staff urges students to continue wearing their masks to uphold the safety guidelines so that some of these restrictions will be loosened.
Residence Life is striving to put on events and other activities that will be simultaneously fun and safe while still giving students a sense of community. Recently, Residence Life put on a block party with a dance afterward in the gym.
Howell stressed the importance of students continuing to follow safety guidelines during these events. This includes keeping their facemasks up so that we can continue to have fun events such as the block party.
Many students have concerns about whether or not we will be allowed to go home for Thanksgiving break this year. While many schools like Shasta College are going online for the Spring semester, Simpson has announced that they will be continuing in-person classes for the Spring semester. Although, this could change depending on COVID case numbers here on campus and in Shasta County. However, students will be asked to stay on campus for Thanksgiving break or not return until after Christmas break, according to an email from Head of Residence Life, Julie Engelsman.
“We are making plans for continued testing and how to keep our community safe as we consider travel around Thanksgiving. Those plans will be finalized very soon as we work with our COVID consultants and public health to determine the best way forward,” Endraske said.
Simpson does not want students to travel outside of Shasta county and to keep off-campus travel as minimal as possible.
Endraske also stated, “The plan with COVID is to keep a careful and cautious approach with congregate housing. That is a high priority for the county and for the Simpson community.”
There have been five total cases here on campus as of Oct. 4, which have all been handled by the COVID response team according to President Norman Hall. Stay safe, wear face masks, and continue to social distance so that we do not end up having to move to online learning only. Keep up the great work Simpson. Go Red Hawks!