June 6, 2020

Int’l students and dorm staff affected by COVID-19

Monday, March 9 was the official day spring break began for Northampton Community College students and faculty. However, the Coronavirus outbreak occurred, resulting in an extended break. 

Three weeks after spring break students received an email that all classes would continue online for the rest of the school year. This brought on major complications for the entire campus. 

One being that International students and dorm staff members have been staying in the residence halls on campus ever since. 

Many international students had to stay in the dorms for spring break and were just as affected by these changes. Housing directors and staff have been taking measures to make sure the students are safe and doing well during this time.

“The professional staff from our office and from the international office have been doing virtual check-ins with the students living there,” said Amy Porter, Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life. “Students have been instructed to follow the stay-at-home order issued by the governor and only leave campus for essential needs.” 

In addition, visitations have been restricted to limit the risk of spreading the virus to any other students or staff that currently reside in the building, said Porter. They have also switched the living arrangements from those in double rooms to each student staying in a single room, as a precaution.

“Students were issued masks for their use if they do need to leave campus for any reason,” Porter said. 

International students aren’t the only ones staying in the residence halls, though. Because these students had nowhere else to go and being sent home during this pandemic isn’t an option, several staff members were asked to step in to regulate the building as they would during a normal school year. 

Porter said two professional and three student staff currently oversee the day-to-day operations in the dorm. Throughout the year, they participate in various meetings to plan ahead and discuss things for the future. Because of the virus, they have to be more careful in doing so and the usual small-knit circle had to be expanded for their own safety. 

“The staff is limiting face-to-face interactions as much as possible and holding virtual building meetings,” Porter said. “They are having face-to-face interactions as needed but practicing social distancing during those times.” Both students and staff have been provided with face masks for those need-based moments when they have to be in close proximity. 

There is no set or estimated date for when the dorm will officially be opening again as this pandemic is an ever-changing issue and cannot be predicted. The numbers continue to grow each day, with dozens of cases, and counting. The risk is simply too great. But the college continues to make decisions and inform residents whenever there are changes. 

A recent update from assistant director of Housing and Residence Life, Ken Lastowka, stated that even though Northampton County is still under the stay-at-home mandate, there is a chance that might be lifted by the end of May depending on the number of cases in the area. 

If that were to happen, a plan is already in place for residents who haven’t moved out to do so in a structural way with safety concerns already taken under consideration. 

Until then, the residence halls will remain closed to anyone other than the students and staff currently residing there. Students who are waiting for confirmation of a safe date to move out are encouraged to keep checking their emails for updates from the department. 

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