Sent on Behalf of Interim President / Senior Vice President for Residential, Mr. Danny Dorsel:
Dear GSSM Families,
It is now less than two weeks before our anticipated move-in day for the first spring residency. As you might expect, we are working hard to ready the campus for our return to residency. Updates on many of the preparations are in this communication.
I’m excited to tell you about a significant addition to our Return to Residency plan. Today, we rolled out an electronic contact tracing system for staff. This system, from Kogniz, uses small, wearable, tags that can quickly identify anyone who had close contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus. When we piloted this system in the fall, we found that it significantly improved accuracy and reduced the time required to conduct a contact trace from hours and days to minutes.
We have purchased a tag for your student to use if they are returning to campus this spring. They will be required to wear it whenever they leave their residence hall room.
I hope that this additional investment in our COVID-19 Return to Residency plan brings you comfort that we are doing all that we can to protect the health of our students and the larger community. You can read more about the technology, including privacy and confidentiality issues, here.
As a reminder, contact tracing is only one facet of our many efforts to return to residency safely. Here are some of the other things we’re doing…
- Community Preparation: On Sunday, we asked those students planning to return to campus to begin quarantining themselves and completing a daily REACH survey to get them in the habit of deliberately assessing their wellness and asserting their commitment to returning safely to campus. If your student is returning to us this spring, please encourage them to complete this survey every day this week and next. It will be a requirement when they are on campus.
- Community Testing: GSSM has its own rapid testing equipment, allowing us to respond very quickly to a suspected infection or exposure. Working with MUSC, DHEC, and Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center, members of the community will be tested regularly to facilitate rapid awareness of infections and reduce the opportunity for community spread.
- Better Traffic Flow: Based on our work with MUSC, we have created one-way traffic in areas to reduce on-coming encounters with others and to relieve congestion.
- Healthy Air: Air is moving through the heating and cooling system at all times to refresh air supplies and reduce potential viral load. We are also installing ionic scrubbers to further reduce the chance for air-borne exposure.
- Sanitary Surfaces: We have hired additional staff to clean bathrooms and shared spaces throughout the day. Meeting rooms are cleaned after each use and students clean up after themselves before they leave their classrooms.
- Safer Spaces: Each room has a posted maximum occupancy limit to prevent over-crowding. Our dining hall has been reconfigured to facilitate distancing and to reduce the number of people sharing the space at one time.
- Personal Protection: Many spaces, such as the dining hall, classrooms, labs, and service desks are equipped with plexiglass barriers to reduce opportunities for person-person exposure. Hand sanitizer is available in classrooms, meeting rooms, and along hallways. Of course, everyone wears a mask while on campus.
- Signage: Signs in each classroom and throughout the campus provide specific instructions to help maintain physical distancing and to remind about the school’s COVID-19 protocols. Our floors and tables feature aids to let students know how to move through and use GSSM spaces safely. Our new digital signage also reinforces these messages.
- Daily Personal Assurance: Each day, each students will be required to conduct a personal health survey, including taking their temperature with a school-provided thermometer, and complete a short screening REACH survey. Based on their answers, they will be allowed to continue to public areas or will be instructed go to Health Services for further assessment. Health Services is notified immediately when a student requires assessment. Staff participate in a similar screen before entering campus.
- Making it Work: COVID challenges us to find creative approaches to some activities. While changes will occur to some of our extra-curricular activities, students will still have the opportunity to participate safely in athletics and clubs.
- Keeping You Informed: Like most schools, we report COVID activity on our website weekly and will report significant developments via email as we have done throughout the pandemic. We value and appreciate feedback from families and are grateful for your expressions of support.
For more than 30 years, South Carolina families have trusted GSSM to create a safe, caring, and academically challenging environment for their students. The current healthcare crisis creates unique challenges for schools and especially residentials schools. We are taking all that we’ve learned about residential education and combining it with public health directives to create an environment that preserves the best features of GSSM while responding responsibly to today’s healthcare challenge.
On Monday, January 18th, you should expect to receive an announcement about any possible changes to our Return to Residency Plan. In particular, we will either confirm the planned return date or announce an adjustment to the planned return date.
If you are sending your student to us this spring, we hope that this recap of our preparations brings comfort to your decision. If you have ideas, questions, or concerns that we should discuss, please feel free reach out to me.
Mr. Danny Dorsel
Interim President / Senior Vice President for Residential
SC Governor's School for Science + Mathematics