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Task team plots way to phase in university operations

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SPU is in full swing with preparations to return to some level of face-to-face operations during Level 4 of the lockdown.

SOL PLAATJE University in Kimberley is in full swing with preparations to return to some level of face-to-face operations during Level 4 of the lockdown.

The university’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Andrew Crouch, said in a message sent to all staff of the institution that the Level 4 lockdown had presented a number of opportunities for the university to return to some level of face-to-face operation under health conditions prescribed by the lockdown regulations.

These include the identification of selected personnel who can return to work on campus; the resumption of construction work on campus; and preparations for the imminent return of students to the university within the next few months.

Crouch said he had put in place a task team to plan and steward the processes to implement to start the university operations in a phased way. “This task team is chaired by the chief operating officer, Raymond Olander, and has already begun its work.”

Crouch added that as part of the overall plan for the university, each divisional head would be required to submit a list of the essential workers who would need to return to campus in the first phase. 

“It is expected that the phased-in return (estimated to be from May 18, 2020) will commence once the following have been put in place: fogging (ie decontamination) of all university buildings; procurement of cloth face masks (two per employee); installation of sanitiser dispensers; placement of hand sanitizers at all entrances and in bathrooms; provision of soap and paper towels for toilets; implementation of physical distancing protocols which will mean the maintenance of a distance of 1.5 metres between staff and visitors; face shields and physical barriers in areas where the public is served; procurement of screening tools such as hand-held infrared thermometers; and appointment of a Covid-19 compliance officer, he said.

“In addition to the safety measures listed above a number of recommendations are being considered. This includes a recommendation that staff should work from home and only go onto campus if it is absolutely necessary to do so and in consultation with their line manager.”

It is also recommended that all staff who need to enter the campus, must apply for a permit to do so. This will be issued by the chief operating officer, as delegated by the vice-chancellor.

“When conditions permit, a phased return of staff to campus will be implemented. Only one-third of the staff complement will be allowed onto campus in the first phase and this will be co-ordinated by the relevant line managers. Staff over 60 years of age and staff with diagnosed co-morbidities will be encouraged to work from home.” 

Crouch stated further that construction work was being allowed to resume and a plan was in place to first address the major works contractors who are building the priority projects, namely the academic buildings and student residences. “This will be followed by the civil works contractors who are completing the work on South Campus that provide all the bulk service installations. Thereafter the work of the other categories will be put in place.”

He pointed out that no SPU students would be allowed to return to campus during the Level 4 lockdown. “A phased return of students is anticipated when the level is further reduced and we receive the go-ahead from the Department of Higher Education, Training, Science and Innovation to do so.”

Crouch further thanked the university staff for their continued efforts in keeping the university academically and administratively operational during the national lockdown period. “It is a testament to your industriousness that we are in a strong position to plan for and begin implementing processes for the post-lockdown phase.”