Los Angeles County has finally entered the Orange “Moderate” tier for community disease transmission for COVID, which basically means that certain places like restaurants, art spaces, and sports venues can start reopening with certain health precautions in place. Likewise, Otis College will be able to reopen for the Fall start of the 2021-2022 academic year. So what will the Fall term be like?
For starters, most studio classes will meet either fully in-person, or with a mix of on-campus and online class meetings. In-person classroom capacities will be reduced to between eight and 12 students to allow for social distancing. Liberal Arts and Science classes will continue online in an effort to maintain a reduced staff and student presence on campus. Lab and shops will be open, still by appointment and adhering to social distance protocols, with personal protective equipment (PPE) available for students working in any close-contact area.
The Residence Hall and Park West apartments will reopen at double occupancy (two people per double room; four per suite/apartment), and residential students will be required to use the Coverified app to monitor health symptoms to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being. Some rooms have been reserved for quarantine/isolation purposes, if necessary. Elaine’s Dining Commons and the Rose Hills Foundation Cafe both will be open for pickup meals and dining in outdoor tables.
Students will be required to get one of the government-approved COVID-19 vaccines before their arrival on campus, which will be achievable once vaccine distribution opens up in Los Angeles County to anyone over the age of 16 in mid-April (with federal plans underway for a similar opening up of vaccine distribution throughout the U.S.) The Student Health and Wellness Center will continue to offer services to meet students’ mental and physical health needs in-person and remotely, including testing for anyone with COVID symptoms (or who has been in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with the virus). When available, the SHWC will also be able to administer COVID vaccines to students for free.
The College anticipates that travel restrictions will continue to loosen, allowing international students to make plans to travel to the U.S., however, if an international student is unable to enter the U.S. because of visa issues or the continuation of travel restrictions, Otis anticipates being permitted to offer remote learning. Current students with active visas should plan to be back on campus this Fall. Current and new students without visas should start work on their I-20 paperwork, working with the One Stop. If any international student or student with disability encounters difficulty in their plans to return to campus, there are staff and administrators who can help. More information on the type of support available can be found on the Otis Forward website.
All campus buildings, classrooms, offices, labs and shops, dining facilities, public residence hall spaces, and the Millard Sheets Library will continue to be regularly cleaned and disinfected, following enhanced guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Public Health Departments of California and Los Angeles County. While Otis was closed this past year, Facilities Management installed nano-septic, self-cleaning elevator buttons and door handles throughout the campus, as well as high-efficiency air filters that support acceptable air quality and help reduce transmittal of airborne viruses and bacteria. The College also consulted with architecture firms Frederick Fisher and Partners and Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects to reconfigure classrooms and workspaces with safety in mind. Students arriving to campus for the first time will notice all the new signage helping with traffic flow, maintaining six feet of social distance, and following cleaning and sanitizing protocols.
As Otis continues to plan for the Fall reopening of campus, student health and well-being is at the center of this work. School leadership and the COVID-19 Task Force closely monitor developments in the transmission and containment of the COVID-19 virus and how this impacts local and state regulations on what institutions can reopen and how. Being a small college and campus has its upsides in that changes to existing plans can be implemented relatively swiftly. Staff and faculty are excited to welcome back students to their home away from home. It is their hope and expectation that students will return to campus, committing to “Protect the Nest” in an environment of caring and creating.