The Office of Residential Life, Housing and Food Services at the University of Nevada, Reno has been working for months in preparation for housing students in one of the 12 on-campus residence halls amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In accordance with directives from federal and state government, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, residence halls will occupy no more than 50 students per floor at the start of the 2020 Fall semester.
“After March’s shutdown, we knew we had to prepare for a range of scenarios going into Fall 2020,” Dean Kennedy, University executive director of Residential Life, Housing and Food Services, said. “Our office has been in weekly communications with the more than 3,000 students who signed up to receive University housing this year. Students and their families have a number of questions about on-campus living during this pandemic and we are doing everything we can to answer them in a timely manner.”
Given Governor Sisolak’s extended emergency directives, which limit building occupancy and group gatherings through August, the University plans to house about 2,400 students. Kennedy explained students were given housing assignments on a first-come, first-served basis, based on their housing application date.
Due to the pandemic, housing availability remained fluid throughout the summer. Each week, the residential life office communicated with all students who applied for housing, grouping them into three categories: students assigned a building and a room, students assigned a building and students waitlisted for housing. Over the last few months, students in each group chose to cancel their housing applications due to the pandemic, which allowed housing to accommodate others who want to live on campus. Kennedy said a limited number of spaces for student housing are still available for students interested in living in the residence halls.
Health and safety
“Across our facilities we are implementing several measures in an effort to increase the health and safety of residents and staff,” Kennedy said.
Those measures include additional physical barriers in public spaces, hand sanitizer stations added to each building entrance, reduced furniture in spaces to maximize social distancing, mandatory face coverings for students and staff, social distancing signage to reinforce social and physical distancing and quarantine spaces designed for students who have nowhere else to go should they test positive for COVID-19. Janitorial and housekeeping services will also be enhanced across the residence halls with more frequent cleanings of high-touch surfaces with CDC-recommended cleaning agents.
“By living on campus, whether you are learning online or in-person, you have access to more experienced students – including resident advisors and resident directors – who can guide you through the collegiate educational experience because they are living just down the hall,” Kennedy said. “In addition, should you need assistance with studying, test-taking, or even with beefing up your resume by getting involved with student organizations or undergraduate research, that involvement is 100% easier when you live close to those resources/access points.”
While life on campus will undoubtedly look different this fall, Kennedy stressed the communities, friendships and scholarship built between students when they live in the residence halls. He believes students living on campus this year will benefit from being around other students in a similar situation. Paraprofessional resident advisors and full-time resident directors with master’s degrees are working on plans for how best to facilitate these communities, while conscious of the pandemic and all it entails.
“The Residential Life, Housing, and Food Services student and full-time staff will be coordinating safe in-person and virtual activities where students can increase their friendship circles,” Kennedy said. “These connections broaden students' portfolio of learning where they live; and likely lead to other connections/relationships that will help them advance their career. Some of these connections could be finding their new best friend or life partner, job opportunities during or after college and other experiences they would never have access to through solely remote learning to get a degree.”
James Wright, a resident director in the Nevada Living Learning Community added to what Kennedy said about on-campus living this year.
“Our community development model has changed,” Wright said. “It is now less program-based and more about social interactions from both the resident advisors and also the residents. Passport event programs have been developed for both virtual and in-person events. Those in-person events will host 10 residents at a time and will require face coverings and social distance. We are going to do everything we can to help students connect with each other and with staff safely.”
Wright also acknowledged the student staff who help create successful residential life experience. From resident advisors to academic mentors and senior resident advisors, each will play an integral role in helping new students feel connected to the University.
Uncommon and Canyon Flats
With Argenta Hall still offline, following a July 2019 gas line explosion that caused significant damage, two new interim housing contracts are in place for the 2020-2021 academic year, to make up for the approximately 800 beds needed. An agreement with CA Student Living Reno II, LLC of Uncommon Reno and Cardinal Group Management/Canyon Flats III, LLC of Canyon Flats will offer housing designed with students in mind.
While students living in these properties will have their own rooms and bathrooms and high-quality, newly constructed living facilities, there are slight delays in construction. Due to these unforeseen delays, which are a result of the pandemic, approximately 260 students assigned to these residence halls will have temporary housing at the Whitney Peak Hotel, a completely non-gaming hotel in Downtown Reno, until their rooms are ready for occupancy. The University anticipates they will be able to transition into Canyon Flats by Sept 5, if not sooner, and into Uncommon by Aug. 24, if not sooner.
While staying at the Whitney Peak, the University is working to keep students grouped together and not intermingled with other tenants; though this may not be possible for every resident. Additionally, due to this temporary shift in accommodations, students staying at the Whitney Peak Hotel will share a room with one other student, likely their roommate from Canyon Flats or Uncommon, until they can move into their more permanent residence.
Similar to Wolf Pack Tower last year, the University will have full-time and student staff living at the Whitney Peak Hotel. There will be University staff on each floor where students will reside. Two security officers will be on site 24/7. University Police Services will also be adding the hotel to its patrol.
“We recognize this is a less than ideal situation for our students,” Kennedy said. “In order to make things easier during their short-term stay, students will have transportation to and from campus, which will be provided from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (and for meals during Move-in). In addition, students will receive $25 in Wolf Bucks per night for this inconvenience. Wolf Bucks are loaded onto a student ID card and can be used with food vendors across campus, including The Wolf Shop.”
The current plan is to have all dining venues across campus open and provide quality service along with additional protective health and safety measures. Those include more “grab-and-go” services in order to adhere to state occupancy directives. Extra hand sanitizer stations have been added to all dining locations and Nevada Dining is looking into possible delivery options.
Fall 2020 move-in
This year, University move-in will be spread over the course of five days, Aug. 18-22. Students and their families are asked to limit guests and to check-in during their chosen day and time to ensure everyone’s health and safety.