Clarification: Although most students who are planning to live in Pittsburg State’s residence halls this fall are moving in, those who test positive for COVID-19 are being required to remain in isolation off-campus.
PITTSBURG, Kan. — As students move in at Pittsburg State University and prepare to begin classes Monday, both they and university faculty and staff are dealing with a much different start to school this year than any in the past.
PSU is taking a wide range of precautions in response to the coronavirus pandemic — including testing all students who will be living in the residence halls, as required by a Crawford County public health order, which was endorsed by the university and issued last week. That testing has already identified at least four positive COVID-19 cases among students preparing to move into the residence halls.
The university will continue testing students this weekend. "And so we can just assume that we’re going to have positives out of those, but that’s what the testing is for, to catch any positives, you know, before going into communal living," Crawford County Health Department Director Rebecca Adamson said at Friday’s county commission meeting.
While the county health department is keeping track of positive coronavirus cases on campus, many of them will not be officially counted among Crawford County cases reported in the regularly updated numbers from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. They will instead be counted as positive cases for wherever their permanent legal address is located.
When PSU has identified positive cases at this early stage of the start of the school year, those students have been sent home, Adamson said.
"I think all but one has gone to their home in a different state and isolated," she said.
Taylor Panczer, PSU’s COVID-19 case manager, is working closely with county public health officials, the university said in a statement.
"If the cases are students who live in a residence hall, Panczer will determine isolation and quarantine directives based on established protocol, including assisting with alternative housing arrangements," a PSU spokesperson said.
In response to a question from Crawford County Commissioner Jeremy Johnson about local accommodations, Adamson said the university has a memorandum of understanding with the La Quinta Inn & Suites, "so they can utilize that for students that need isolation and quarantine."
Aside from COVID-19 testing, the university is taking a range of other precautions. While Move-In Day would typically take place on a Saturday, this year the process has been spread out, starting on Friday and continuing through Sunday.
As they would in a typical year, university housing staff are handing out room keys, but in 2020 they’re also handing out facemasks, which are now a requirement on campus. Hand sanitizer stations have been set up across the PSU campus, and when students go to their residence halls, there are limits on the number of family members who can accompany them.
Despite all the changes this year, however, students arriving on campus are still looking forward to beginning their college experience.
"It will be a lot different this year, but I’m still excited," Alexis Denton, a freshman from Oklahoma, told university staff.
"It will be a memorable year, no matter what," she said. "I’m just ready to get started."