Move-in Day and Welcome Weekend looked a bit different at Penn State Berks as strategies were put in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As processes, procedures and programming were altered in new and creative ways, it was evident that the health and safety of the student body was the main priority.
From Aug. 20 to 21, first-year students moved into the residence halls. Housing and Food Services (HFS) implemented a system of staggered check-in times. When students arrived, their first stop was a drive-through check-in station where HFS staff members provided room keys and arrival packets. Police and Public Safety guided traffic and approximately 40 student orientation leaders were available to help answer questions.
Students were allowed to bring their family and friends to help them move in but were asked to keep the number limited. Everyone was required to wear a mask and practice social distancing. In addition, HFS staff thoroughly cleaned and disinfected high-touch areas throughout the day.
“One of the most memorable moments of a student’s college experience is their first move-in day,” stated Jonathan A. Kukta, director of housing and food services. “I am so proud of our team in Housing and Food Services, Police Services, Information Technology, Residence Life, Student Affairs, and Maintenance and Operations for working together to be creative in how we moved students into the residence halls this year with a focus on safety, yet still intertwining experiences that gave our students positive memorable impressions.”
Emily Smith, York, Pennsylvania, a first-year student majoring in accounting stated, “I was so impressed by how helpful everyone was. It has made the transition easy and exciting!”
Mayreline Lora, Newark, New Jersey, a first-year student majoring in biobehavioral health, added, “The check-in process was so quick and still informative. I also appreciated all the information related to COVID and the safety precautions.”
In addition to the Move-in Day precautions, HFS has taken steps to help limit prolonged person-to-person contact. Guests will be prohibited in the residence halls. General facility cleaning regimens will be based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the American College Health Association, the Department of Health and others.
Residence Life will significantly modify its programming and interactions with students to minimize risks associated with transmission of the virus, and social or physical distancing requirements in the residence halls will be strictly enforced. All lounge space will be closed initially. Over time, relaxation of that status will depend on the effectiveness of mitigation efforts.
“Housing and Food Services, Residence Life, and Student Affairs staff have been working closely to evaluate all aspects of campus housing and required adjustments in our physical environments. We have developed mitigation strategies for all our residents moving into the residence halls. The health and safety of our campus community is our top priority,” summarized Joe Webb, director of student affairs and engagement.
In an effort to help incoming first-year students to adjust to campus life, Penn State Berks held a variety of virtual events and programs during Welcome Weekend from Friday, Aug. 21 to Sunday, Aug. 23.
Highlights of the weekend included break-out sessions where students got to know one another, stories from returning students about real-life struggles and transitions, student success sessions where faculty and staff provided information to help prepare students for the first day of classes, and academic program sessions which explored the college’s 25 baccalaureate and associate degrees.