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UCalgary residence: What’s changing and staying the same this fall due to COVID-19

By Nikayla Goddard, August 28 2020—

Wearing a mask the moment you step outside of your room unit, no open common areas, no guests allowed, traditional dorm residence buildings remaining closed and increased opportunities for community building and socializing through a new residence services position are a few of the changes being made to University of Calgary residences this fall in light of COVID-19. 

Lakshmi Sangaranarayanan, associate director for U of C’s Residence Services, is responsible and accountable for overseeing all residence units on campus, from organizing housekeeping to assigning students to rooms to ensuring students in residence have a great experience with the residence and campus community. 

The traditional dorm-style rooms that are situated in Kananaskis Hall and Rundle Hall are unable to be used this year due to the buildings having shared washrooms facilities, meaning both buildings will remain entirely closed this fall, Sangaranarayanan said. All other buildings that are suite, apartment and townhouse style will remain open with some modifications. 

The main principle informing social distancing measures across all open buildings is a two-person per bathroom ratio, meaning only two students will be living in a three-bedroom suite. Students will not be required to wear a mask within their unit or the shared kitchen / living space in their own unit, but must wear a mask when they step out, including in hallways, elevators and any main floor areas. 

All common room areas will be closed in order for Residence Services “to maintain all the requirements by the Alberta Health Services and government regulations,” Sangaranarayanan explained. Laundry rooms will remain open but with limited capacity and with enhanced cleaning measures. 

The Landing, which is the residence’s cafeteria and food service, will be open for dine-in service for meal plan holders and will adhere to Alberta Health guidelines, which includes reduced seating capacity, enhanced cleaning procedures and directional and physical distancing signage that will be in both the Landing and in residences. 

Residence rates are approved yearly every January by the Board of Governors for the following fiscal year, meaning that although there are enhanced cleaning protocols and expenses, a piece of good news is that rates won’t be increasing.

“For students who are living with us this year, they are responsible for paying the rate that was approved by the board in January 2020,” Sangaranarayanan said. “As a result of all the [COVID-19] changes that I had reviewed, really we aren’t increasing the rates of them, so the rates that were approved by the board are what students will be paying.”

Another piece of good news includes the introduction of new positions to help residence students feel more connected.

“In residence, for us, it’s important to focus on the social aspect, the wellness aspect and the community aspect that this year we have created new positions because we know, due to COVID, some of the different challenges that our students will be facing could include being isolated, everything being online, not many events and in-person social events for students to attend,” Sangaranarayanan described. 

Two Wellness Ambassador positions have been created, which will provide “active programming around student wellness and really be an initial point of contact for our students and will be focusing holistically on student wellness.”

Sangaranarayanan concluded by saying that residence services have been “incredibly excited” to roll out the two new positions in order to better support students in COVID times and beyond.

For more information on residence services, check out the residence services website.

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