For some returning students, it will be the first time they have ever set foot on their college campus while for others it will be a welcome sight to be back with the old familiar.

But what will the experience be like and what measures are being put in place to ensure a safe and healthy study environment?

While most universities and colleges closed to students last year Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) remained open with huge success. We take a look at their COVID-19 measures as an example of what student life living with COVID-19 will look like.

The “First Five Weeks Welcome and Induction Programme” will see GMIT prioritising small-group teaching activities on-site for all students such as labs, workshops, practical classes and tutorials. Some online delivery will continue this semester and some courses will be delivered in a blended format with a mix of online and on-site.

All student services will be offered in a hybrid model; appointments for student counselling, access and disability services, student health, careers and chaplaincy will all be available both online and in person says the communications team at GMIT.

The campus was open last year with student’s on-site daily apart from during January and February when countrywide the COVID-19 case number were very high.

To allow for a safe environment for students and staff members, GMIT implemented COVID-19 actions and say that those measures will be staying in place for the coming academic year.

  • Enhanced ventilation (in compliance with World Health Organization guidelines).
  • Mandatory masking (single covering) indoors.
  • Access to extra outdoor spaces on campus.
  • Adherence to new layout and rules of movement within campuses (until 22 October).
  • Sanitisation of work and study spaces and an overall increased frequency of cleaning.

    Dr Seamus Lennon, head of department of biopharmaceutical and medical science at GMIT and COVID-19 officer explains what measures the college have put in place over the summer break to ensure a healthy environment for new and returning students.

    “The first three things you have to think about are ventilation, ventilation and ventilation,” he says. “For the last 12 months, and over the summer, we’ve been doing building work on rooms. All rooms were tested for ventilation and the rooms were below a certain level, then we installed fans to literally blow more fresh air into the rooms.

    “Also, we’ve purchased some air purifiers for rooms that are difficult to work in.

    “Last year, we had COVID-19 testing available for everyone every day from the second semester and we’re going to take part in the HSE project where there is COVID-19 testing again available for students every day, he explains. “So, we have ventilation, COVID-19 testing, distancing and sanitisation. And obviously everyone wears a mask at all times except when eating or working alone in your office,” he adds.

    When it comes to mask wearing, Seamus said he had no complaints from any students or staff last year, they were just all so grateful to be able to continue their life on campus. It proved that the measures put in place really worked.

    “There were students who were on campus with COVID-19,” he explains, “and you find that out subsequently – they could have been in labs all day Monday, all day Tuesday and Tuesday night they start to feel ill and they get a test and tell me on Wednesday the test was positive – they would have been infectious while they were on campus.

    “But in all those cases, there was no spread of the virus to classmates, so basically my message is that the system works – the distancing, mask wearing, ventilation and sanitisation.

    “If everyone continues to comply with those actions, then we are very happy that we have a safe environment on campus,” says Seamus.

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