Be prepared for the (not so) unexpected in student communities

Social distancing, hygiene, deep cleaning, contact tracing, contactless/touchless, quarantine, isolation, self-isolation, de-densification, resident engagement and virtual programming. Does this sound familiar? It's all possible in your purpose-build student accommodation buildings, and StarRez share some insights on how.

Student communities - StarRez | PBSA News

By Travis Knipe, CEO, StarRez

Firstly, let me clarify. I really dislike the term ‘social distancing’. I’ve mentioned this before; it’s really physical distancing. Physical distancing already takes a toll on our emotional wellbeing. It has changed many of our lifestyles, which is an important safety measure for this unprecedented (also a word I would like to avoid but accurately describes the world we live in today) pandemic. However, we still need to stay very closely connected to our family, friends, colleagues and peers.

Resident engagement and onboarding might look different with a more significant focus on virtual activities – but thankfully – you can still provide a great experience with technology. 

Ideally, you will have a hybrid of some in-person and digital experiences to help bring it all together. I’ve covered my thoughts on this in my previous blog around virtually engaging residents.

As with most things in life, preparation is the key. Right now, a lot of planning has gone into room configurations, mostly focused on reducing capacity or planning for spaces that will be suitable for quarantine and isolation.

A lot of discussion is about the move-in process. A quick recap is easy to use barcodes for touchless check-in and appointment timeslots to allow your residents to pick a time they can arrive, successfully navigating social distancing from both of these solutions. Our recent article on preparing for when students return to campus applies more detail around occupancy planning, room selection and allocation, and touchless move-in operations.

Now or very soon with your residents on campus, the focus shifts to resident engagement and a significant focus on resident health, wellness and safety.

Monitor and track resident health

We’ve made it easy for residents to self-report. A new solution we launched at the start of this pandemic – called the ‘Situation Response Flag’ – lets residents update their status as ‘safe/well’ or ‘unsafe/unwell’ during an emergency. 

Now your team can receive alerts from students that might be feeling unwell, and you can monitor all of this with Reporting Dashboards for quick insights, which can be easily shared with any other department. Now you’ll be well prepared to communicate, act and manage these situations.

Here are two of the most common scenarios I’ve been discussing with our StarRez community:

  • Quarantine – for many states, you’ll require students from other states to quarantine when they first arrive. Quarantine will also be essential should a resident believe they have been exposed to someone with Covid-19.
  • Isolation – is required where someone has tested positive for Covid-19 but is not so unwell they need treatment at a medical facility/hospital or similar. They also need more support with things like meals and laundry, linen and other considerations.

As part of the reporting process, it can also assist with Contact Tracing. Residents can share details of people and places they have interacted with while being unwell.

Our Concern Reporting solution has been adapted

We’ve streamlined and expanded the reporting process so it’s easier for teams to spotlight and monitor concerning behaviour. And it’s easier for communities to check in on anyone who seems disconnected from their support networks during an outbreak, making it more flexible to support operations using it for quarantine needs. It’s a great way to track regular engagement as well.

It will be essential to have your workflow setup so you can easily follow a well-planned set of action items, such as confirming when residents are ready to return from their temporary isolation rooms back to their permanent rooms. 

Thriving residential communities

We also miss the thriving residential communities of 2019 and we know you’re well prepared to navigate the challenging times ahead until we can overcome this disruptive pandemic. As your technology partner, StarRez remains on standby to help you and your community.