Into LSE’s return: on-site testing, Library restrictions, and socially distant classrooms

Colin Vanelli & Yasmina O’Sullivan

In preparation for LSE’s return to campus, LSE hosted a staff town hall which outlined many of the proposed systems for protecting staff and students from risk of COVID-19. These proposals include a test-and-trace system with on-site testing, capacity limitations in the Library and other common spaces, and socially distant classrooms, among others.

These measures, some of which are being confirmed for the first time, represent the School’s attempt to balance the personal safety of students and staff against the dangers posed by the UK’s rising case incidence of COVID-19, which is particularly concentrated among young people.

Andrew Young, LSE’s Chief Operating Officer, announced that LSE was working on developing an internal track-and-trace system, which will be spearheaded by on-site testing available to all LSE students and staff. LSE plans to encourage all students to get tested in the first weeks of term to identify asymptomatic cases in the community. Young emphasized that only people without symptoms of COVID-19 should utilize on-site testing; anyone experiencing symptoms, he said, must quarantine at home and follow NHS guidance for testing.

In line with government social distancing guidelines, all classrooms in the School have been adapted so that individual desks are 2 meters apart, and group tables have been removed. Students and teachers will be required to wear masks at all times within LSE buildings. If a student in class tests positive, only those who were within 2 meters of the individual for 15 minutes or more will be required to quarantine.

The Library will operate at 30% capacity to ensure social distancing. In order to reduce foot traffic, the Library will operate a click-and-collect system for books and research materials, and some classrooms around campus will be bookable through the Library for group study.

Students and staff will be required to complete weekly health questionnaires certifying that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms. Staff divisions submitted risk assessments in advance of their in-person return to campus, which will be stored in a public portal to ensure transparency. 

Students and staff will receive hand sanitizer and two face masks as part of their welcome pack, and staff can request visors through the Estates Division. For students unable to return to campus, LSE has invested in closed-captioning software to assist students with hearing problems or learning difficulties who will attend classes virtually.

Separately, Professor Eric Neumayer, Pro-Director for Faculty Development, assuaged concerns that students would not return in the fall, saying that registration numbers looked good, but the School would not be able to have full confidence in the numbers until the first round of tuition payments in late October. Neumayer said that most cases of students not returning to campus have been related to the substantial visa-processing delays faced by international students.

The Beaver understands that there will be a student communication going out later today, containing further information on safety measures being put in place across campus.

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Yasmina O’Sullivan

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