COVID-19 Return to campus plan

Although we cannot predict what the future will hold for our campus, we believe that the safety measures we are adopting in conjunction with a wide variety of best practices, including, but not limited to, documents from the CDC Guidelines for Institutes of Higher Education, The Responsible RestartOhio: Higher Education Minimum Operating Standards and Recommended Best Practices, ACHHA Guidelines for Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the Covid-19 Era, and others, provides us with solid preventative measures. Bluffton University’s plan was reviewed by the Allen County Department of Health.

  • Daily personal symptom monitoring: Students, faculty and staff with symptoms (fever, cough, body aches, etc.) will be required to quarantine until a return to day-to-day routine is authorized under medical and public-health guidelines. Students must report daily on before leaving their residence hall room. Daily symptom checks are also required for faculty/staff before they leave home. 
  • Social distancing: We are modeling social distancing in all aspects of campus life, including things like using larger spaces for classes, using hybrid in-person and remote teaching models and protocols for dining.
  • Wearing of facial coverings: We know that wearing facial coverings, along with social distancing, are among the most effective ways of minimizing the spread of the virus.  Beginning Monday, Aug. 3, it is our policy that all students, faculty, staff and guests on campus wear facial coverings indoors, per the Responsible Restart Ohio. Face masks are preferred. Face shields are permitted when a face mask is not an option. Exceptions will be made for in private workspace/residence hall rooms or when wearing a facial covering is not functional (practical) and social distancing can be maintained.
  • Testing: If a student needs to be tested, options will be available locally through the Blanchard Valley Health System hospital in Bluffton.
  • Contact tracing: contact tracing will take place in accordance with guidelines from the CDC and Allen County Department of Health for all campus community members who test positive for the virus.
  • Isolation and quarantine: Because we know eliminating all risk is impossible, we will ensure those students are supported and cared for until a return to day-to-day routine is authorized under medical and public-health guidance.
    • Those with symptoms or who are in the process of being tested will be quarantined. The same will be true for students identified through contact tracing as having had potential exposure, and as a result, will be required to quarantine for 14 days. These students will participate in classes remotely.
    • Students with positive test results will be isolated or go home per the health plan developed before they moved onto campus. These students will participate in classes remotely as they are able.
  • Return to day-to-day activities: Bluffton University students diagnosed as being  COVID-positive will be required to remain in isolation for a total of ten (10) days after illness onset (defined as the date that symptoms began), plus a minimum of three (3) days after recovery. Recovery is defined as resolution of fever without use of fever-reducing medications accompanied by progressive improvement or resolution of other symptoms. Students will be permitted to return to campus following the final three-day recovery period as defined above. Based on CDC guidelines
  • Cleaning and sanitation: We have stocked sanitation products and planned for staffing so that we can follow strict disinfection and cleaning protocols in all public spaces on campus and residence halls.
  • Healthcare support: In addition to our Student Health Center, the Village of Bluffton has numerous healthcare providers within walking distance from campus.

We will observe social distancing in classrooms, including moving some classes to larger spaces on campus. Facial coverings will be required in class unless the faculty member or student has a health issue related to mask-wearing and that condition must be documented with Student Health Center. There may also be removal of face coverings for safety or other practicable reasons, such as when a student is in a science lab conducting an experiment where a facial covering becomes untenable or hazardous. Face masks are preferred. Face shields are permitted when a face mask is not an option. Classroom surfaces will also be disinfected before every class by incoming students and the professor. To facilitate having fewer students in the hallways, class beginning and ending times will be slightly staggered.

Remote learning:
As we open campus and look forward to welcoming students, we also recognize some members of our community might be compelled to be away for part of the semester (including for quarantine purposes). To this end, faculty are preparing to work with students to make in-person and remote experiences as parallel as possible.

Residence halls are our students’ “home” while they are on campus and we will be allowing students to live in double rooms. Each two-person room will be considered a “family unit.” If one student is isolated with a positive COVID-19 test result, their roommate will also need to self-quarantine.

Moving in and out processes will have staggered sessions to allow for social distancing and other health measures, such as allowing only two people in the dorm room to help a student move in or out at all times.

Students will be wearing facial coverings in the residence halls and lobbies. Face masks are preferred. Face shields are permitted when a face mask is not an option. Furniture in the lobby will be spaced for social distancing. Bathrooms also will have special sanitization rules.

Two floors of Ropp Hall will be used as quarantine space and houses adjacent to campus owned by the university will be used for isolation of Covid-19 positive students. The quarantine space will include furniture, access to food services and Internet. While healthcare will remain accessible and available on campus, per the students' health plan, they may choose to return to their permanent residence to seek healthcare. Students must check out with the RA via phone or text, and provide a COVID-19 negative test result to return to campus. CDC discontinue isolation guidelines >

Commuter students should quarantine at home until testing results are known and isolate at home until released by the Allen County Health Department (or home address county health department).

Our dining services provider, Sodexo, has implemented CDC and health department guidance in food preparation, service and dining operations. Buffet-style and self-serve options have been removed. All food will be served. Grab and go options will be available as needed. Seating in The Commons will be reduced for social distancing and sanitized regularly.

The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference set a new conference-wide policy allowing each host instition to set its own policy regarding spectators. As of Feb. 12, 2021, Bluffton University will allow students, faculty and staff who are part of the daily campus community to attend athletic contests. Attendance continues to be closed to all off-campus family, friends and fans. Links to streamed events are available at 

With our focus on student learning and care for our campus and surrounding community, we will cancel or adapt many in-person public events on campus for fall semester. These events include, but are not limited to: public Forum presentations, guest presenters and related luncheons and receptions, performing arts events, the annual President's Banquet for alumni and donor recognition, alumni and athletics reunions, and meetings of community organizations.

The music department will support our students through taped performances without live audiences.

The Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) is comprised of leaders from Bluffton Village, Allen County Health Department, Bluffton Exempted Village Schools, Blanchard Valley Hospital, and Dr. Sherri Winegardner, Bluffton University director of nursing and associate professor. This group will serve as our advisory and consulting group for all of our planning and implementation.

Second, another important committee also has been formed, the Student Health and COVID-19 Steering Committee. Dr. Winegardner will be chairing this committee as the project manager. Phill Talavinia and Karen Bontrager from the President’s Office will be leading this action-focused committee. This committee will form sub-committees, including students (when they return), staff, faculty, and community members to implement the action plans that already have begun to be shaped. These action plans will help keep our campus community informed and educated as together we put into place best practices for campus-wide health and safety.