Behind the Scenes: Photos Track Preparations for Students’ Return to Grounds

Behind the Scenes: Photos Track Preparations for Students’ Return to Grounds

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This is not a normal year.

With the COVID-19 pandemic altering the rules of physical and social engagement, the University of Virginia has mobilized to reopen this fall better prepared to protect the health and safety of students and employees. The preparation includes installing clear plastic shielding and sanitizer stations, marking out safe distances, rerouting buses and distributing face coverings to students and employees.

“Countless UVA staff members have worked tirelessly to prepare the Grounds for the return of more students, faculty and staff colleagues,” Jennifer “J.J.” Wagner Davis, the University’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said. “Their work has always been fundamentally important to keeping the University running smoothly, and circumstances in recent months have made that even more apparent. I am tremendously grateful to have such a dedicated team bringing their expertise to work every day.”

Employees from the Facilities Management’s sign shop fabricated and installed clear plastic shields around Grounds and barriers in libraries and at points of commerce. The sign shop has turned out 824 clear plastic dividers and more than 38,000 safety signage decals preparing for students to return.

University Procurement purchased 42,000 face coverings for Academic Division employees and 2,600 sanitation stations, as well as 25,000 “Welcome Back Kits” for students, which contain two cloth face coverings, two 2-ounce containers of hand sanitizer and a touch-tool for pulling door handles and manipulating keypads, all packaged in a drawstring bag.

Housing and Residence Life has prepared more than 2.5 million square feet of residence hall space by marking out 6-foot distances in common areas, placing furniture in storage to encourage physical distancing, removing closures so doors can remain open, installing signage and decals and capping water fountains.

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The University Transit System has made a massive effort to move faculty, staff and students. Since the pandemic began, UTS bus drivers have logged 10,000 driving hours, transported more than 200,000 passengers and driven more than 65,000 miles to take Health System employees to their jobs.

Allison Day, operations manager for University Transit Service, has reorganized the entire bus route system, creating a route structure that prioritizes essential trips for transit-reliant passengers – like those who need to park remotely and bus to their workplaces – while reducing convenience-based travel – like students who catch a ride from their dorms to nearby classroom buildings, just to save a few steps.

Across Grounds, the School of Law is preparing for its students’ return.

“Designing a social-distance seating plan with enough study space for our students has been one of the bigger challenges,” Amy Wharton, director of the Arthur J. Morris Law Library, said. “Most of our study tables normally seat four students, but under the distancing guidelines they can seat only one. By fitting our largest tables with clear plastic, two mask-wearing students can safely sit diagonally from each other and still be 6 feet apart from students at other tables nearby. We had cutouts added to keep the tables’ built-in electrical outlets accessible.”

Wharton said the library scanning system has been reconfigured so most check-outs can be done with the staff never touching the materials. A special book slot will allow books to pass through if necessary.

University Photographer Sanjay Suchak captured preparations across Grounds this summer. Take a look at the University-wide effort below.

Guy Mengel, director of Library Facilities and Security, places a physical distancing decal on the floor of the Charles L. Brown Science & Engineering Library in preparation for its reopening.
Stickers on the floor in the Clark Hall classroom mark appropriate physical distancing.
Warren “Hubba” Wood, Ben Lane and Shawn Anderson of Facilities Management’s Sign Shop work on a Saturday morning to install clear plastic shields on the serving line in the Newcomb Dining Hall.
Sandra Payne of Facilities Management cleans and disinfects a clear plastic shield in the Charles L. Brown Science & Engineering Library in preparation for its opening.
Scott Anderson, a driver for the University Transit System, discusses new routes and preparations with UTS Operations Manager Allison Day.
A Facilities Management employee assembles hand sanitizer stands in the Drama Department’s scene shop. The dispensers have been distributed to key points around Grounds.
Facilities Management staff attach foot pulls, made in Lacy Hall by Engineering School employee Sebring Smith, on the doors of bathrooms throughout Grounds to reduce contact with high-touch areas.
Oscar Goode of Parking and Transportation installs a new hand sanitizer station on a bus. P&T employees have also installed 1,000 “do not sit” decals to encourage distancing, as well as changed 110 bus route signs.
Two Housing and Residence Life staffers arrange furniture in Gibbons Hall to increase distancing in common areas.
William Barrett of Facilities Management dusts in the Charles L. Brown Science & Engineering Library before opening.
Lorelei Miano disinfects a bus. Parking and Transportations cleaning crews have logged more than 3,000 hours since the pandemic began. Each of the 40 buses in the fleet is cleaned twice a day.
Furniture has been removed from study spaces, such as this Gibbons Hall lounge, to encourage students to remain physically distant.
Staff have installed clear plastic shields in the Arthur Morris Law Library, as well as stickers marking safe distancing.
In addition to signage like this, libraries across UVA will have safe distance markers and clear plastic shields on common tables, and will undergo frequent cleaning and disinfection.
Workers from contractor Worth Higgins & Associates installed banners on more than 20 University Transit System buses, reminding members of the UVA community to wear masks to keep everyone safe. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

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University News Associate Office of University Communications