Making a Comeback
Students are days away from returning to campus, and the Integrated Facilities Management team has been working hard to prepare the way.
Students return to the UW Tacoma campus on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Faculty and staff who had been working remotely for the past year-and-a-half started coming back in mid-September. Some, including Tessa Coleman and the Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) team, never left.
The IFM team has been busy getting campus ready for this moment. It’s been a circuitous path, one that has required patience and flexibility. What we know now about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is very different from 19 months ago. Coleman and the IFM team have adapted to the science and our evolving understanding of the situation whether that meant securing the proper disinfectants, plotting out one-way paths through buildings or reorganizing classrooms to accommodate social distancing. Those last two efforts were in use when a small number of classes were held in-person during the 2020-21 academic year and are no longer applicable.
One-way paths and social distancing may no longer be required, but students, faculty and staff are required to wear a mask inside buildings on campus. There will be sanitation stations available throughout all campus buildings. “Classrooms, conference rooms and breakout rooms will be cleaned daily,” said Coleman.
Coleman and the IFM staff have been busy installing plexiglass shields at reception desks. Study spaces and conference rooms will be blocked off at various times of the day to allow for cleaning. To this end, the campus community is encouraged to minimize waste. The idea is to limit the amount of time the custodial staff spend in individual work areas, allowing them to focus their energies on cleaning and disinfecting academic spaces and general-use areas such as restrooms, corridors and study spaces.
The task of readying campus for the return of thousands of people is daunting and never-ending. It requires long days and lots of planning on the part the IFM team.
“When I look at the spectrum of things we need to know or that we interact with in a day,” said Coleman, “it’s anything and everything, outside to inside, floor to ceiling, physical to emotional, you name it.
“The thing I try to remember is that facilitates management is not just about buildings or about fixing things, it’s actually about people.”
All of the the IFM team have worked hard to make changes. From no-touch fixtures in restrooms to a parking app with optical recognition of license plates rather than payment kiosks and physical permits, the team has looked for innovations that will serve during the time of pandemic and beyond.
Among a myriad of activities, they have reworked their cleaning schedules, distributed 162 portable air purifiers, installed sanitation stations with wipes for surfaces and another kind of wipe for AV equipment. “The goal was to reduce touchpoints wherever and whenever possible,” said Coleman.
Signage is being placed throughout to help explain campus users understand the changes. “It is a full team effort, and I am proud to be part of the IFM team,” said Coleman.
When the custodial team is fully staffed, there are 10 team members to service building interiors, not including the campus’s residence hall, Court 17. The team covers 727,000 gross square feet of space in 21 buildings.
“Staffing is key to support essential services,” said Coleman. “This year, we asked for additional fixed-duration positions on the team to help us navigate the changes in cleaning needs. We are currently recruiting for these positions, and also to fill several vacant positions. We’re also working on adding additional tools and equipment to increase our efficiency.”
“We are constantly adapting as things continually change,” said Coleman. It has been a lot of work, and the load promises to continue into the new academic year. But Coleman and the team know that it is for a good cause. They’re helping UW Tacoma make its great campus comeback.