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Sac State prepares to safely welcome the Hornet Family back to campus

The University has taken significant measures to ensure a safe return to campus for students, faculty and staff in the fall, while continuing to emphasize the importance of vaccinations.
Thu Jun 3, 2021

Sacramento State will be alive with more activity than it has experienced since the March 2020 COVID-19 shutdown, with faculty, staff, and thousands of students returning to campus this fall.

That optimistic outlook is grounded in the reality of near-constant change in safety guidelines and necessary plan updates that keep some details conditional or undetermined. The message, however, is clear: Be ready to come back.

Provost Steve Perez shares that perspective.

“We need a website called ‘Subject to Change,’” he said, “because we’re trying to make plans based on what we anticipate it’ll be like in August and build a schedule that meets our students’ needs, and then circumstances change and we adjust.”

Nonetheless, “We’re coming back to campus, and Fall 2021 will be a steppingstone to Spring 2022, when we’ll be back to whatever our new normal is.”

Perez, also vice president for Academic Affairs, said the University is working to have a majority of classes in-person, with “an array” of classes also being delivered online. The University is revising previous estimates of in-person classes to reflect ongoing reassessment of supporting information.  

“We’re coming back to campus, and Fall 2021 will be a steppingstone to Spring 2022, when we’ll be back to whatever our new normal is.” - Provost Steve Perez

The University is embracing the theme “Hornet Family. Together Again,” and Perez and other Sac State leaders are working to ensure students will have a safe and successful fall semester when instruction begins Monday, Aug. 30. Students will find classrooms upgraded with “smart” elements. Other improvements include more wi-fi availability and new shaded outdoor venues for studying and safely gathering with friends. Air Conditioning System (HVAC) filters have been upgraded, too.

Popular locales such as the University Union and the Academic Information Resource Center (AIRC) again will be available, and campus eateries will be open.

The return also will affect on-campus living, with about 2,000 students expected to settle into the North Village residence halls and up to 1,100 students at Hornet Commons, a new apartment-style complex on the south end of campus. Residence hall occupancy had been limited significantly during the Spring 2020, Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.

Preparing for ‘a happy Hornet Family reunion’

University President Robert S. Nelsen is eager to welcome students to campus.

“I can’t wait until we are all together again, and I can walk up to students and talk to them. I’ll be able to shake hands again,” he said. “I expect that the Hornet football team will have fans in the stands this fall, and that all sports will be up and running.

“Jody and I always try to get to as many plays, dances, and music events as we can,” Nelsen said, referring to his wife. “We look forward to being able to do that again.”

COVID health and safety measures will remain in place until the CSU and Sac State can align with the changing guidelines determined by federal and state leaders, said Gary Rosenblum, associate vice president and chief risk officer. New government guidelines are expected to be rolled out this summer, and the campus plans to have revised safety protocols in place soon after.

The path leading to the entrance to the University Union, with signs pointing the way to the vaccination clinic
At Sacramento State's vaccination clinic, inside the University Union, University health care staff and Nursing students have administered 19,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinations are key to reopening campus at full capacity, University officials say. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

“All changes potentially approved by government agencies enable the University to look forward to opening campus buildings and activities to students, faculty, and staff with the expectation that we can safely provide a happy Hornet Family reunion with a very close to ‘normal’ campus experience this fall,” Rosenblum said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on May 17 declared that fully vaccinated Californians can go mask-free in most indoor settings beginning Tuesday, June 15. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released new Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People, relaxing standards for face coverings, travel, and testing for those who are fully vaccinated.

In April, Nelsen announced that the CSU and Sac State will require campus returnees to be vaccinated for the SARS-CoV-2 virus by the Fall 2021 term or upon full approval of one or more vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichever occurs later. 

However, in a message he shared on May 20, Nelsen reiterated that, until the California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA provide updated guidelines, face coverings will continue to be required for anyone coming onto campus. That could change with new guidelines.

Meanwhile, Sacramento State’s vaccination site in the University Union has administered nearly 19,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine since January, work done by University health care staff and Nursing students.

Students began receiving the vaccine on campus in mid-April.

“Getting everyone in the Hornet Family vaccinated means a quicker return to a safe, maskless campus at full capacity with full activities,” Rosenblum said.

An upgraded campus, both inside and outside the classroom

Work to prepare the campus has been ongoing.

Since the shutdown 14 months ago, Information Resources and Technology (IRT) and Facilities Management staff have updated 436 classrooms with technology solutions in preparation for hybrid (face-to-face and remote) instruction, said Peggy Kay, associate vice president for Academic Technology and Campus Engagement.

In addition, IRT provided video technology to the University Union for expanded classroom use.

“The goal is to enable common audio-visual and video-standard instructional spaces across the University,” Kay said.

Classroom improvements include tethered sit/stand desks with built-in personal computers, ceiling-mounted cameras and array microphones, USB cameras with remote control and tripods, and rechargeable lapel and handheld microphones.

A man sits on a bench on the Sac State campus, surrounded by trees
Sacramento State has made campus upgrades both inside and outside the classroom in preparation for students, faculty, and staff to return this fall. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

IRT is expanding Sac State’s wi-fi network by adding wireless hubs to more than 80 outdoor locations where students gather and study. It’s also working to bring the University’s Wi-Fi 6 percentage up to 93% and is coordinating with the Sac State Police Department to extend the Emergency Notification System to campus emergency-phone speakers.

IRT also added 750 laptops and 200 web cams and headsets to its inventory of electronics for students, faculty, and staff to borrow, Kay said.

During the campus closure, crews retrofitted outdated lighting in the University Library, turning it from one of the least efficiently lit buildings on campus to one of the most. Workers replaced 5,000 incandescent bulbs with LED kits, giving students brighter light for studying and reducing annual energy usage by 54.5%.

Big changes to benefit students are in the works for outside the Library, as well.

“We have put in a request to add electrical outlets to the south side of the breezeway, by Special Collections and University Archives,” said Amy Kautzman, Library dean. “It won’t be as many as we want, but someday we’ll get the entire breezeway electrified. The outlets will allow for students to be outside and still be productive.”

The Library also has a new “green-screen room” where students can practice and record presentations, as well as an augmented reality/virtual reality room and larger lockers, where students can pick up materials they’ve ordered from the Library.

Other changes include more outdoor seating designed with students in mind, including more than a dozen pergolas with built-in benches along Moraga Way and elsewhere throughout campus.

“We’re also planning additional benches and unique seating in and among the trees on the North Quad and Library Quad,” said Tony Lucas, associate vice president for Business and Administrative Services. “We need more informal areas where students can spend time outdoors in the fresh air and take advantage of our beautiful campus.”

Once the project is completed, Lucas plans to publish a map of Sac State’s outdoor-seating options, including pergolas, benches, and picnic tables

Another large-scale project in state-owned campus buildings is replacing 2,884 existing Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 8 air filters with MERV 13 filters.

The higher the MERV rating, the better the filter is at trapping specific types of particles, said Daryn Ockey, senior director of facility operations.

“Although COVID-19-related restrictions are beginning to lift, Sacramento State continues to prioritize the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” said Jonathan Bowman, vice president for Administration and chief financial officer. “This is evidenced by the many projects we are undertaking, such as the proposal to install electrical outlets in the Library breezeway and installing MERV-13 filters in all University buildings.

“We will continue to be agile in how we prepare for the Fall semester, while also looking to proactively mitigate safety concerns for the future.”

About Dixie Reid

Dixie Reid has been a writer for Sac State since 2012 after decades as a newspaper reporter. A Texas native with the accent to prove it, Dixie is crazy about “dear friends, big dogs, good books, great food, day trips, baking cookies, California sunshine (and fog), and kind people.”