A change to the COVID-19 guidelines the Winter 2021 semester at Alma College included students remaining on campus for the entirety of the semester with the exception of the three weekends granted by the school for students to visit back home. To ensure that students are following the new protocol, Alma College is using students’ daily health screenings to determine the location of the students.
If the college’s data shows that a student has left campus, they are sent an email from the COVID-19 Student Conduct and Compliance Assistant, Shelby Shawl. Within the email, it states that if the student has left campus they must begin to self-quarantine, which includes all meals to-go and avoiding in-person activities.
If the student received the email by error, then they can disregard the email. If the student’s device is not connected to Alma College’s Wi-Fi when the health screening form is filled out, this can result in error in data. Director of Residence Life, Alice Kramer, said “The best way to avoid this is to make sure your device is connected to Wi-Fi before you submit the form each day.” She adds “All the student needs to do is reply to the email. Again, we encourage students to be honest about their situation so we keep our campus safe.”
Kramer said that besides the daily health screenings, the other way in which the college recieves information about students leaving campus are students self-reporting. She adds “I have been impressed with our students’ honesty and commitment to keeping themselves and our campus safe by letting us know when they need to leave campus.”
This change on campus has become a concern to students who have family emergencies and appointments outside of the greater Alma area. Emma Keith (‘23) had to leave campus for a medical appointment. Keith said “I called Shelby Shawl. If it is for a medical appointment, you are allowed to leave campus as long as you are going to that appointment and come right back to campus. As long as you only go to those two places then you do not have to quarantine or get tested when you arrive back on campus.”
“All of our decisions have been grounded in what we learned about COVID-19 spread on campus last semester. When we analyzed our case information, we found that COVID spread at Alma College when students left campus, caught the virus, returned to campus, and spread it to their roommates and other close friends” said Kramer.
Since the pandemic is still evolving, there is little knowledge as to how much longer Alma College will have to continue tracking students through health screenings. Kramer adds “We are committed to evaluating the situation regularly and making changes when it is safe to do so.”