A behind-the-scenes of the university’s COVID prevention strategy.
By Caitlyn M. Davis and Katherene Welsh / Editor in Chief & Staff Writer
It has now been a year since the beginning of the pandemic—the world has been changed. Now it is a good time to reflect on the little or big things that we are grateful for, one being the JCU team behind the re-opening of the university. Students and professors agree that being able to come to class or the office feeling safe amidst the current pandemic has been helpful in creating the connections needed to continue discussing and learning new topics. We have been able to do so because of the hard work and good planning of the JCU cleaning, maintenance, and cafeteria staff.
To get more insight on how JCU’s hybrid learning system for the 2020-2021 school year was planned, we met with the administrative officer of Logistics Corrine Sabbatucci and the Manager of the Finance and Operations Office Francesca Monteporzio.
Monteporzio started working at JCU in 2005, when the only campus building was Guarini and where she worked at Front Office. Part of her role then was helping with the renovations when the university began to expand. Sabbatucci also worked in the front office and later joined the Finance Office. Now, Monteporzio is the Director of Purchasing and Manager of Operations, and Sabbatucci is the Administrator Facilities Manager. They both have extensive positions within the school’s infrastructure and also work very closely with the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Operatives, Jose Alvarez.
Sabbatucci and Monteporzio started working with VP Alvarez when the COVID-19 breakout occured.
“That’s when it all started,” she said.
There were two Task Forces, each with specific agendas, called the Academic Task Force and the Campus Reopening Task Force. Monteporzio worked in both, while Sabbatucci was only involved in the latter. Both were created as it became clear during the first lockdown back in March that the university “had to rethink the teaching experience” and this was when the preparation for the upcoming fall semester began.
One of the most important tasks of the Academic Task Force was providing the equipment needed to hold online lectures, which would be cameras, microphones and tablets. They were able to do this after consulting with the IT Department and the Communications Department for a better idea of which cameras would be best. They also had to consider the entrances and exits of each campus building, and find spaces for the temperature scanners.
“Everyone was involved,” said Monteporzio. “I don’t remember any other time during my time at JCU that all the departments worked together. I think we did a good job.”
They also had to think about students staying at the university’s residences. This was one of the Campus Reopening Task Force’s priorities, which was created to keep the university at low-risk for the spreading of the virus.
It was truly an organized team effort to prepare the school to reopen in the fall. In order to come up with an effective strategy, there needed to be collaboration across the entire team. Every small detail was examined, and potential concerns already had solutions. During these discussions, they asked important questions such as how would they house students? How could students check out library books? How could professors teach students who had decided to take all of their classes online? Everyone’s needs were taken into consideration.
Maintaining the cleanliness of the school was clearly the main priority since the goal was to open JCU so students and professors could continue with classes. In order to accomplish this, they had to make sure that the risk for infection was reduced, so the measures they took were precautionary.
“Whatever we did was in following the latest decrees of the Italian government. Always staying updated with the help of professionals, doctors, workers, lawyers, and external support that helped in tacking and making the right decisions,” said Sabbatucci.
Alicia Soni is a cleaner who has been working at the university for eight years and is usually stationed at Critelli campus. When the first lockdown went into effect last year, she, like the rest of the world, was worried and afraid of becoming infected with the virus, and was also concerned for her family in the Philippines. Teaching was now online, but the campus remained open, so a few workers came even while most stayed home. Thankfully, JCU was able to look after the wellbeing of their staff during the first lockdown, who were also compensated through the “cassa integrazione.”
According to Soni, there are specific stations and schedules for the maintenance, cleaning staff, and cafeteria staff. For every campus building, there are a few cleaners who are scheduled to work there specifically. The cleaning staff follows government safety recommendations. They wear masks, their temperatures are checked daily, they are tested randomly every week, and they also wear gloves throughout the day. Soni says that when everyone came back to work, these were all recommendations made to them by their supervisor.
According to Soni, every surface inside the building that was exposed or used by the dozens of students (computers, chairs, tables, stairs, etc.) was sanitized with 90 percent alcohol. “I keep on saying we are lucky because of the care and protection, and we do the swab test every month. [All] this is provided by JCU.”
The maintenance staff, who works at the university’s residences, wore the same protective gear as doctors and nurses at the beginning of the pandemic. The cafeteria staff members are not only given masks but also face shields for extra protection.
At Critelli, Soni and her co-workers sanitize the classrooms every 15 minutes in between classes. When classes are over, they come in and start cleaning all of the desks and chairs, and also open the windows for ventilation. They then move on to cleaning the bathrooms. The stairways in Critelli are cleaned as often as possible and even the tables and chairs out on the Critelli courtyard are also cleaned regularly. This cleaning schedule is similar to the ones at Tiber and Guarini as well. Because of this fast pace and increased workload, JCU hired more workers through an outside agency, who have been “very helpful and a great hand” to Soni and her co-workers.
On the weekends, cleaners from another sanitation company come to the school to sanitize every space where people spend most of their time, such as Tiber Cafe, the computer labs, the lounges, and the front offices, etc. According to Monteporzio, they come when the school is not as busy as it is during the week to prevent anyone having allergic reactions or sensitively to the products they use.
The cleaners, maintenance workers, and cafeteria staff were also all given information by their supervisors who sent them official governmental links where they could find nearby hospitals giving out vaccines. Throughout this entire experience, the supervisors were able to give answers to the staff and communicated clearly with them what was to be expected, giving relief and security for many.
“One thing that we should acknowledge is that they have always been here,” said Sabbatucci. Even with the lockdown, the cleaning maintenance and the logistics team were always here. To keep some basic services going, like mailing, we had a skeleton staff coming to work and it was all made by logistics, front office, maintenance, and 1-2 cleaners. “Just to make sure that we could cope with whatever problems could come up
,” she said.
Soni said she is happy to be back at work with her coworkers who are also her friends and getting to see some students back at the university. She and everyone else have worked extremely hard to give us such privilege—and they should be proud.
“I think we could help fight this pandemic by continuing our three ‘tions’, which are communication, cooperation, and action,” said Soni. “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”