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College bar table service, outdoor gym and “segments”: Castle announces coronavirus plans for October

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In a letter to returners at University College, Principal Wendy Powers outlined how the college will operate in accordance with government and University guidance on Covid-19 in Michaelmas Term.

The letter, a summary of the University’s new protocols and policies applied to the college, specified a household as a “small group of up to 15 students with shared communal facilities, based on accommodation location and access to facilities”.

With the current coronavirus alert at Level 3, two households will be allowed to join to form a “segment”, where “members of the same household/segment do not need to socially distance when in college”.

Social distancing, of one metre with protective equipment or two metres without, will apply to all other interactions around college, university and the town.

To make the segment distinction clear, University College will provide “colourful wristbands corresponding to their household/segment for the first week”.

“It’s helpful to think about the return to University and College this autumn as completely different to what you’ve known previously”

Principal Wendy Powers

If a student staying in college accommodation tests positive or displays symptoms of Covid-19, then everyone in that household and segment must isolate for 14 days, though “this is dependent on the nature of the exposure and guidance from DU Health and Safety”.

Other measures will also be in place in college to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations and guidance. Segments will be assigned slots during mealtimes, and screens will separate segments in the dining area.

Some communal spaces will open, all with “social distancing, cleaning and monitoring” considered, according to Professor Powers.

“As we begin the term, the JCR Welfare room, college library, a modest outdoor gym (we hope), the JCR and MCR rooms, and IT spaces will be open with limited capacity and/or available by booking through an app.”

“Table service rather than walk up bar service will be our new normal for quite a while”

Principal Wendy Powers

Formal dinners will not be held in University College under current regulations, though this will be reviewed every fortnight.

The college’s Undercroft Bar is to open, with seating areas separated by screens and an app in place to book space for each household, and “table service rather than walk up bar service will be our new normal for quite a while”.

Those not living in college accommodation will not have the usual access to Durham Castle on return – “for the first few weeks and out of caution for health and safety, most University College spaces will be restricted to resident students and staff only.”

Asking returners to act respectfully to freshers in the new circumstances, Professor Powers noted that “It’s helpful to think about the return to University and College this autumn as completely different to what you’ve known previously.”

“A key University goal is to remain open here in Durham rather than moving back to a fully online model until Covid is contained. Therefore, your choices and actions will have a direct impact on whether this goal is achieved or not.”

Image: rogiro via Creative Commons

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