As Emporia State prepares for classes on August 17, employees, like students, may request accommodations such as working from home or attending online courses.
“We launched (the accommodations program) last week and we've seen some responses to it, but not an overwhelming response,” said Ray Lauber, director of human resources. “Each department has assessed their basic needs and service levels to identify which employees can continue to work remotely and which need to be on campus or be a blend.”
According to Lauber, the amount of staff across all departments will be limited to reduce the amount of people in the office.
“The goal is to have as many return in the Fall as seems possible but the key is to return safely,” Lauber said. “Everyone who can’t work remotely, like their job doesn’t allow them to, has already returned to campus.”
According to Lauber, while the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) doesn’t have provisions for workers who may request accommodations due to living with household members who may be at-risk for the coronavirus, Emporia State does allow such accommodations as long as the risk factors are documented.
“(There is) no federal law, but (it is) something we decided to put together that allows faculty and staff to request adjustments,” Lauber said. “We leave it up to the department heads. We have had training with supervisors and the chairs, so everyone approaches it the same way and we have similar standards. There’s some medical information we need, but we treat that information as we would the personal health information (of our employees).”
Full time and student employees may request accommodations through their supervisors.
“(Student employees) are eligible for work accommodations,” Lauber said. “The nice thing about student employment is that we can be really flexible. The work adjustment piece is just the nature of student work.”
With classes set to reopen in-person Monday, August 17, Lauber said that the college has been deliberate in their planning.
“We've been very deliberate and careful about how these plans have been put together, if you put the hours up it's been not days but weeks that we have been planning this,” Lauber said. “What we can take away feeling about this is that we've given people those choices. Hopefully, we have done this well and hopefully any sort of deaths that are associated with Covid-19 will not be a result of community spread on the campus so that we can say that we provided the best environment that we can…a third of our budget comes from public tax, so there are expectations that we have at a variety of different levels.”
Students like Stacey Olson, junior political science major, must also make the decision to return to campus or not.
“I was born with a respiratory condition…so I don’t get proper air through my heart and lungs so it can already be difficult to breath,” said Olson. “A lot of my classes are smaller so for me it is less concerning going back to classrooms seeing as I won’t be interacting with many people.”
Olson said her decision to return was largely because she would not know what else to do.
“I don’t know how to go about (learning online),” Olson said. “I feel like I don’t have a choice because of the type of learner I am. I feed on those discussions over case laws or over topics of journalism but also because I don’t know how the format would (change). I know when we changed to online class last semester it was hard to understand.”
For more information about the campus return policy visit www.emporia.edu/covid-19-information/esu-fall-2020-return-campus/facemask-policy/.
To request accommodations fill out the form located on the university website at https://sintelforms.azurewebsites.net/Anon?SPHostUrl=https://emporia.sharepoint.com/sites/Hornet365ServiceRequest&List=ea7955c2-c3ae-41ea-9f7b-5a9d644b749a.