Residence and Dining Halls
Postsecondary institutions need to put in place plans, procedures and policies that help support the health and safety of all students, faculty and staff while they are in common areas such as residence and dining halls.
Institutions should consider the following actions to help develop and implement protections for student health and safety precautions in residence and dining halls:
1. Create plans for student move-in to residence halls that allow for and promote social distancing and other recommended COVID-19 safety precautions.
- If students are returning to residence halls on campus, colleges and universities should design move-in plans that allow students, families and staff to adhere to social distancing recommendations.
- Strategies that promote COVID-19 safety precautions during the move-in process include, but are not limited to:
- Assigning students to specific time slots to decrease density of crowds during the move-in period.
- Extending the move-in time frame for students in on-campus housing from the typical 1-3 days to 5-7 days to allow for fewer students assigned per time slot.
- Restricting the number of people that can assist a student in moving into the residence hall.
- Using a drive-through check in process to minimize contact and touchpoints.
- Placing an increased number of sanitizer dispensing stations throughout the residence hall during the move-in period.
- Requiring students and visitors to wear masks during the move-in process.
2. Establish guidelines for social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in dorm rooms/suites, common areas, and when entering and exiting the residence halls.
- As noted in the Governance and Legal section of this playbook, all handbooks, residence hall contracts and student agreements should include updated university policies and requirements regarding social distancing and PPE.
- These policies should be reiterated during any beginning orientation/move-in meetings to reinforce awareness and understanding of campus residence hall requirements designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
3. Place signs promoting social distancing, the use of masks and other COVID-19 safety requirements within communal spaces.
- As one component of a broader communications effort, residence halls and other communal campus spaces should include a variety of signs indicating social distancing or mask requirements and other COVID-19 safety recommendations. Signs can focus on topics such as:
- Face mask/covering guidelines
- Restroom hygiene guidelines
- Social distance guidelines
- Building entry/exit flow
- General disinfection guidelines
- Elevator use protocol
Several institutions (e.g., Vanderbilt University and the University of Maryland-Baltimore) have uploaded example signage to their websites. In addition, the CDC has communication resources online that can be used by colleges and universities to promote COVID-19 safety best practices.
4. Create contingency plans for moving students out of residence halls.
- Campuses should also create plans addressing the protocols that will be followed in the event that there is a need to move students out of residence halls prior to the end of the semester or school year due to a spike or resurgence in COVID-19 cases in their local community.
- These move-out plans should require social distancing, the use of face masks, and increased sanitization measures.
- Similar to socially distanced move-in plans, move-out plans should include but not be limited to the following considerations:
- Assigning students to specific time slots to decrease density of crowds during the move-out period.
- Extending the student move-out time frame from the typical 1-3 days to 5-7 days to allow for fewer students assigned per time slot.
- Restricting the number of people that can assist a student in moving out.
- Using a drive-through checkout process to minimize contact and touchpoints.
- Requiring students and visitors to wear masks during the move-out process.
- Placing an increased number of sanitizer dispensing stations throughout the residence hall during the move-out period.
1. Consider grab-and-go options, food delivery or reservation requirements.
- In accordance with CDC guidance, consider providing grab-and-go options for meals.
- Use disposable food service utensils and dishes. If disposable items are not feasible or desirable, ensure that all non-disposable food service items are handled with gloves and washed with dish soap and hot water or in a dishwasher.
- If dining halls will be open for in-person dining, consider implementing a timed reservation system to control the flow of people into and out of the building.
The Dining Services program at the University of Georgia has posted examples of policies regarding online ordering, to-go meals, and reservations for in-person dining.
2. Reconfigure dining areas to allow for social distancing.
- If dining halls are opened for in-person dining, reconfigure the space to ensure a minimum of 6 feet between diners and single-direction traffic flow.
- Restrict the number of people allowed in dining halls to control density and flow of people within the building. Reduce dining hall availability to 50% of normal capacity or whatever aligns with local guidance for dining establishments.
- Clean and disinfect dining areas between use.
- If possible, serve individually plated meals rather than providing buffet or self-serve stations.
3. Place signs communicating social distancing requirements within communal spaces.
- In accordance with CDC guidance, provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times in the dining hall.
- Establish designated pick-up zones for online and to-go orders that include clear marking for individuals to remain at least 6 feet apart.
- Require that individuals wear masks within the dining hall or communal space except when seated to eat their meal.