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Aviation profs land back on campus

Faculty developed a detailed protocol for social distancing and hygiene that has won praise from deans and facilities-management personnel.

By Doug McPherson

October 8, 2020

Chad Kendall and student in simulator course.Just days after the COVID-19 pandemic initially closed the Metropolitan State University of Denver campus, TJ De Cino, Ph.D., assistant professor of Aviation and Aerospace Science, began thinking about how to make summer and fall classes safe. De Cino, who directs the University’s Aeronautics and Aerospace Systems Laboratories, eventually developed a detailed protocol for social distancing and hygiene that has won praise from deans and facilities-management personnel.

“We feel very good about what we’ve done to make classes happen and to ensure the safety of everyone in our building,” De Cino said. “We have 28 different course sections and 20 faculty members (operating on campus). Plus, the students say they’re glad to be back, and no one has had any negatives to share. Our protocols are working, and our numbers (of breakouts) are much lower than other universities – both local and national.”

De Cino said he’s aware of only two students in the program who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. “And both were infected off campus,” he said.

Protocols included an exhaustive matrix for cleaning all “high-touch” surfaces such as doorknobs, tabletops, computer mice and keyboards, levers, dials, buttons, etc.

“We mapped out a matrix of every surface and a list of tasks to clean them all after every class,” De Cino said. “And we’re documenting every cleaning with a time stamp and (the cleaner’s) initials. Everyone is doing a bang-up job. We’ve been very rigorous. It was a heavy lift, but it had to be done.”

The Aviation and Aerospace Science Department also added cordons, ropes, tape and plenty of signage to control human traffic throughout classrooms, simulators and labs.

“This wasn’t rocket science, but we had to have a format for how we’d address ingress and egress in our building,” De Cino said. “We wanted everyone staying in a certain lane to reach the labs, classes and bathrooms with no cross traffic.

“We have had no pushback from students on facemasks or less time in class. They tell me they’re glad to be out of the house and back in class. It doesn’t surprise me, because pilots are Type A people; they get on it and learn what they need to do, and they do it.”

De Cino said he’s heard equally good reports from staff.

“They’ve complied and given us a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “None of this is 100% normal, maybe 75% normal, but we’ve made great strides.”

Chad Kendall, associate professor of Aviation and Aerospace Science, is also upbeat about returning to campus. Kendall added that he’s enjoyed being back in the classroom and that he’s heard the same from his students.

“Before the fall semester began, I had excellent support from my department. I was confident and comfortable with the COVID-19 (safety) protocols and procedures that were put in place,” Kendall said. “I’ve also adapted to personal changes with being on campus, like transportation, limiting time on campus and offering online office hours from home.”

Kendall said that while there have been challenges, “it is good to see how everyone has used lessons learned to produce positive improvements to our safe return to campus.”

“I look forward to being on campus this spring,” he said.

De Cino said the department’s safety protocols have been given initial approval for the spring semester. “We’re building on the success we’ve had this semester and possibly even adding some new classes that weren’t available in the fall,” he said.

Topics: Aviation, Health, Safety

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