Know the Rules – Be aware of state, county, municipal, and school rules as they apply to COVID-19. There are probably “rules” that apply to both individuals and groups and they will likely vary based on municipality and campus. Share this knowledge with chapter officers, members, and tenants.
COVID-19 Testing – Some schools are requiring students to be tested before they return to campus. Some schools are also providing testing stations on or near campus for students. Know where testing is available and share this knowledge with chapter officers, members, and tenants.
If Use of Facility Restrictions are Imposed – If some entity, assuming they have authority to do so, imposes restrictions on your facility that forbids occupancy or otherwise severely limits how your building can be used, be mindful of the following:
- Other groups are having to operate under the same limitations.
- Like a church or synagogue, the building does not make the organization, the people do. People join a group of people, not a building.
- Continue to collect all appropriate dues and parlor fees to enable the chapter to pay its financial obligations. Adding financial stress to the situation will only exacerbate matters and threaten the loss of your house and the chapter itself.
- Consider that approximately 1/3 of PIKE chapters do not have houses and still thrive in that environment. A house is merely a convenience, so think creatively to provide a fraternal experience. If you rise to the challenge, your chapter will be better for it.
Chapter House Rules [related to COVID-19] – Any rules created specifically for your facility should be consistent with the CDC guidelines and those of state, county, municipal, and school authorities.
House Manager Committee – It should be a priority of this team to support the house corporation and chapter leadership in implementing these best practices.
Handout Booklet – Click here for a concise booklet to be distributed to chapter members, tenants, and parents. The booklet contains the basic need-to-know information about COVID-19 while living away from home. A recommended list of personal protection equipment and supplies is included in the booklet.
Communicate Frequently Among Decision Makers – Use a virtual meeting platform with the house corporation board, alumni advisory board, and chapter officers. Meet with the intent to understand each other, build consensus, and communicate a consistent message to other audiences.
Communicate Frequently with Chapter Audiences – The house corporation, alumni advisory board, and chapter can communicate together or separately; just be sure any messages are consistent. The audiences, collectively or individually, should include all undergraduate chapter members, individual tenants, and parents. If not already completed, immediately inform the audiences that tenants and landlords are expected to honor the leases and rental agreements. A specially-called meeting among all chapter members, via virtual meeting or otherwise, would be a good venue to go over the booklet mentioned above and other COVID-19 matters as they relate to returning to school and use of the facility.
Set the Budget – You should now know how many people will be living in the facility this fall. Although the chapter may have limited group activities at the house, that does not release the chapter or out-of-house members from paying parlor fees or rent for the common areas. The house corporation is a nonprofit entity with limited resources, and the property is still subject to operating expenses and debt service.
Move-In Schedule – Coordinate a schedule so that all tenants are not moving in at the same time.
Clean/Disinfect Rooms on “The Turn” – When a sleeping room changes tenant(s), a comprehensive, professional, deep cleaning of that space is a standard best practice. If disinfecting is not typically provided, it should be added. Use the previous tenant’s damage deposit if the space is not left as it was originally provided, with the exception of normal wear and tear.
Clean Common Areas – The common areas should also be professionally disinfected prior to the arrival of the tenants. The facility should look and smell like it has been deep cleaned.
Routine Cleaning – While routine cleaning scheduled by chapter members is fine, it is suggested that frequent, routine, cleaning of the common areas be outsourced to a professional cleaning service. High-touch surfaces, such as door handles and light switches, should be disinfected during normal cleaning visits. It is also suggested that special visits be made, between normal visits, to disinfect those high-touch surfaces.
Individual Room Cleanliness – Encourage tenants to keep their individual rooms clean and to hire professional services if they are not up to the task.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) & Personal Supplies – The booklet mentioned above contains a list of recommended personal equipment and supplies for members and tenants to be as prepared as possible upon returning to school.
Pandemic Sensitive Supplies – The availability of some needed supplies has been, and may continue to be, negatively impacted by the pandemic. Identify sources and make purchases in advance.
Hand Sanitizing Stations – It is recommended that hand sanitizer stations be located at building entrances, bathrooms, and dining area. Consider the use of touchless dispensing devices.
Signage – Click here for template signage to print and post in and around the chapter house. They can be printed on either 11” X 17” or 8.5” X 11” sized paper.
Entry Access Systems – It is suggested that building entrances have doors that automatically lock when closed and require a card or fob to open. Such devices and their functionality for building access would then be assigned to each tenant and chapter member in good standing. The building owner or manager should have the ability to remotely change the access credentials of every device issued. Guests should be accompanied by a tenant or chapter member and the building should never be open to the public when a planned activity is not occurring. If such a system is not feasible, the house corporation and chapter should work together in creating a self-policing plan that limits access to the building.
Kitchen and Dining Operations – If your kitchen produces meal plans, whether it be operated by your own employees or a third party, the meal preparation and disbursement plan should be set and understood. A cleaning plan for the kitchen and dining room should also be set and understood. Expect the use of disposable cups, plates, and utensils. Self-serve buffet-style food distribution is not recommended. If your kitchen is normally not operated by a chef or third-party provider and is open to all residents, it is suggested that access be limited to tenants only during specified times, people be responsible for cleaning up after themselves, and, routine professional cleaning be scheduled.
Anyone Not Feeling Well – Everyone should know to stay in their room and let others know if they are feeling sick. If they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they should obtain medical advice via virtual methods and seek proper testing.
Accommodations for Sick Tenants – If possible, be ready to create a quarantine room in the event a tenant tests positive for COVID-19 or is otherwise identified as someone who must be quarantined. A bathroom, or a portion of a community bathroom, may need to be designated for such purposes as well. Some universities are considering the establishment of infirmaries for sick students. Be aware of whether that is being done and who would be eligible to stay at such a facility.
Communal Sleeping Rooms – If communal sleeping rooms are common on your campus, your local health department has likely already produced guidelines for such arrangements. Regardless, consider making as many rooms as possible single occupancy. Where that is not possible, identify methods to separate personal spaces with barriers that would restrict the transmission of airborne particulates from one personal space to another.
Assumption of Risk Notice – Click here for an “Assumption of Risk Notice” to be conspicuously posted inside the building, and to be distributed to tenants, all other student members, alumni members, and building guests.
Stay Informed of CDC and Local Health Department Guidance – Guidance, at all levels, is continuously evolving. Identify and follow information sources you find most helpful. Be aware of the latest coming from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state authorities, and your local health department. Note that the CDC has a specific advice for Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) that contains information more applicable to student group living. County and/or city officials tasked with overseeing such matters may also have specific guidance for your area.
Understand Legal Issues – The house corporation and chapter should follow the guidance of the CDC and especially that of the local health department. The house corporation should also proactively obtain legal advice from its normal sources about handling tenant-related matters in this pandemic environment. State and local laws or protocols may direct how a landlord should respond if a tenant is diagnosed with COVID-19.
Common Sources of Helpful Information
Plan to be Open
Plan to Be Open – Regardless of what the school decides to do regarding in-person classes or on-campus living, tenants, chapters, and house corporations should plan ahead. Prepare for occupancy even if you are waiting to hear from a third party with legal jurisdiction over whether your facility can open.
The guidance at all levels is continuously evolving. Identify and follow sources you find most helpful. Be aware of the latest information coming from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state authorities, and your local health department. Note that the CDC has a specific advice for Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) that contains information more applicable to student group living. County and/or city officials tasked with overseeing such matters should have specific guidance for your area. Understand the advice on both how to help prevent the spread of the virus and what to do if a resident is diagnosed with the virus.
Consider establishing a virtual meeting platform with house corporation board, alumni advisory board, and chapter officers to discuss issues that relate to and impact each of these groups. Meet with the intent to understand each other, build consensus, and communicate a consistent message to broader audiences.
Communication with Constituents
The house corporation, alumni advisory board, and chapter can communicate together or separately; just be sure messaging is consistent. The audiences, collectively or individually, should include all undergraduate chapter members, individual tenants, and parents. If you haven’t already, immediately inform all audiences that both tenants and landlords are expected to honor leases and rental agreements. Within that communication, or in one soon to follow, inform the audience of the additional practices that will be put in place to help protect tenants and others entering the property (see separate advice for suggested health and safety practices for the chapter house).
Budget for the Year
Plan your budget as you normally would, based upon what you believe is reasonably realistic. You should also forecast one or more contingency budgets based upon some potential “what-if” scenarios.
Communal Sleeping Rooms
If your facility has sleeping rooms occupied by multiple people, consider single occupancy rooms and/or methods to separate personal spaces with barriers that would restrict the transmission of airborne particulates from one personal space to another.
If your kitchen provides meal plans, whether operated by your own employees or a third party, the facility has likely already been subject to local health department guidelines. Communicate with any third-party provider or your employees to confirm they are aware of and comply with any operational modifications required by the local health department for the COVID-19 virus. See suggestions and information created by meal service operator, Upper Crust, on their website.
Understanding Legal Implications
It is suggested that the house corporation and chapter follow the guidance of the CDC and especially that of the local health department. It is also suggested the house corporation proactively obtain legal advice from its normal sources about handling tenant related matters in this pandemic environment. State and local laws may be at play and a landlord should know what to do and what not do if a tenant is diagnosed with COVID-19. Local officials will likely have strict protocol that the house corporation should be sure to follow.
Cleaning & Safety
Accommodations for Sick Tenants
Discuss the possibility of having to quarantine one or more tenants at the chapter house. It is conceivable that local health department officials may direct that a sick tenant quarantine at the chapter house. If a sick tenant does not have single room, consider the possibility of designating a “sick room” for diagnosed tenants and room(s) to quarantine any roommate(s) until testing can verify their status. A bathroom, or a portion of a community bathroom, may need to be designated for such purposes as well. Some universities are considering the establishment of infirmaries for sick students. Be aware of whether that is being done and who would be eligible to stay at such a facility.
A comprehensive, professionally conducted, “deep clean” is normal suggested practice, but this summer’s deep clean should involve extra attention to disinfecting the premises. Tenants, parents, and guests will expect this. When the bulk of the tenants return for the fall term, the facility should be clean with an appearance that leaves no doubt to this concern.
Contract for professional routine cleaning early. While routine cleaning scheduled by chapter members is fine, it is suggested that frequent, routine, cleaning of the common areas be outsourced to a reputable cleaning service. That cleaning service should disinfect high touch surfaces during its normal cleaning visits. It is also suggested that special visits be made, between normal visits, to disinfect just high touch surfaces.
Individual Room Cleanliness
Encourage tenants to make plans for keeping their individual rooms clean. If they intend to outsource cleaning in their personal space, suggest that such services be contracted early as the demand will likely be high.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Inform tenants and chapter members that they are responsible for their own PPE while at the chapter house and that they should plan ahead to ensure an adequate inventory of their preferred equipment.
Pandemic Sensitive Supplies
The availability of some needed supplies has been, and may continue to be, negatively impacted by the pandemic. Identify sources and make purchases in advance whenever possible.
Added Health Precautions
In addition to other recommendations in this communication, consider posting signage to remind tenants and guests to follow CDC social distancing guidelines. Also consider providing hand sanitizer stations at entrances, bathrooms, and dining areas. Be sure entrance doors “lock” automatically with method of access being limited to tenants and chapter members only. Guests should be accompanied by a tenant or chapter member.
The Fraternity’s insurance partner, Favor & Company, created a comprehensive, detailed resource for individual members, chapters, and house corporations, in regards to planning for a fall reopening. It not only addresses how to prepare for and respond to a pandemic, but also provides useful links to products and other resources for chapters and house corporations.
There are two COVID-19 Resource Guides, one created for chapters with a house and one for chapters without housing. There are also 7 different Standard Operating Procedures, covering topics such as facility reopening and maintenance; health surveillance and reporting; PPE; cleaning; and isolation and quarantine procedures.