As the number of vaccinated students, faculty and staff on campus increases, the Physical Resources Department (PRD) has plans in motion to remove social distancing signage and plastic barriers, along with other health and safety precautionary items, by fall 2021.
Among the items planned to be removed are approximately 2,000 plastic barriers for offices, classrooms and common areas; directional signs on floors and doors; signage on furniture designating what is not available for gathering and what cannot be moved; and posters on doors announcing what regulations are in place for that space.
Additionally, around half of the total seats on campus are currently being stored in empty rooms to accommodate social distancing. The rooms in the Reynolds Center commonly occupied by the band, chorus and concert choir have air sanitizers installed. U.V. lights were installed in the George S. Benson Auditorium air units to kill bacteria.
Kimball Slane, PRD general maintenance worker, has been heavily involved with maintaining the regulations.
“We have all worked hard at PRD to help keep the campus as safe as possible,” Slane said.
PRD plans to begin removing plastic shields potentially at the end of this semester but will start in earnest after finals week. Some shields will remain for summer classes and other events, but all are expected to be gone by the time the fall 2021 semester starts. The signage will also be removed after the spring 2021 semester ends. Once those tasks are completed, PRD plans to return the furniture in storage to their proper places.
“It has been a learning experience for us all,” Karl Tankersley, a general maintenance carpenter for PRD, said. “At some points, we have wanted to rip our hair out, and at other times, we have had great cooperation with our university family.”
If all goes according to plan, campus could be back to normal by fall 2021. However, the administration and PRD are monitoring the changing regulations coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas governor. If any mandates are unexpectedly added or removed, Harding will adapt accordingly.
Dana McMillion, director of maintenance and PRD, has been working alongside the administration to keep Harding safe.
“This is still a fluid situation, and we will do our best to follow the recommendations from the [COVID-19] authorities,” McMillion said. “We will do our part to ensure that the campus, staff and students are in a safe environment during this transition period.”