EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of a publishing partnership between the Richmond Register and Eastern Progress

The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents met virtually for their quarterly meeting on Thursday, Sept. 10.

Richmond Mayor Robert Blythe swore in new student regent and Student Government Association President Eyouel Mekonnen.

“I know that prior to you winning this election, you served on the Student Government body for quite some time so I appreciate your years of service that have led to this and I look forward to working with you as I have with the prior student body presidents,” Board of Regents chair Lewis Diaz said.

Regent Alan Long was sworn in for a second term on the Board.

“I appreciate your service in so many ways not only to the University but also for this community,” Blythe said.

Bryan Makinen, executive director for public safety, told the Board of Regents that there has been near-complete compliance of mask wearing on campus. 

“We are not currently seeing the spread of disease resulting from our in person institutional offerings,” Makinen said.

Makinen said that 88 total cases of COVID-19 have been reported since Aug. 1. These reports come from self-reporting or from local health departments. As of Sept. 10, there are 46 active cases of COVID-19 at EKU.

As of Sept. 10, there are 29 residential students with active cases of COVID-19. Makinen said that those students are isolated or quarantined in dorms and are provided with food and checked on multiple times during their quarantine.

“I’m not ashamed to say as a survivor of COVID-19, I know how much that isolation is purely hell but thank you for taking care of them because it’s important,” Regent Juan Castro said.

Makinen said that 14 employees have been designated as contact tracers at EKU. They are expected to identify hot spots, clusters or activities that need to be reconfigured to protect public health and contact students, faculty and staff on campus who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are the only university in Kentucky where we have a formal partnership with our health department and where we have employees who are engaged in this kind of contact tracing activity and doing so in a way that is taking burden off of the health department but better serving the members of the EKU community,” President David McFadden said.

Karen Peavler is the contact tracing coordinator. As of Sept. 10, Makinen said that they have fielded over 1,000 communications with students, faculty or staff.

“EKU Housing has identified quarantine and isolations on campus that are well communicated,” Makinen said.

Makinen said that Model Laboratory School will have a separate COVID-19 dashboard to track cases. Model students returned to school on Sept. 8.

During his presentation, Makinen announced the Colonels “Spring” into Action plan. This task force is similar to the fall contingency task force, but will focus on the back to school plan for the spring semester.

“Recently they have proposed a revised spring semester calendar that is in the final stages of the approval process at this time,” Makinen said. “Each decision that has been made, from this team in particular, has the best interest of our students, faculty and staff at heart.”

He also said that the Registrar Office has delayed submission of spring schedules and has allowed the collection of data to make decisions about class offerings for the spring semester.

EKU is also working to expand the accessibility of on-campus internet and study spaces for commuter students.

Tanlee Wasson, vice president of student success, said that there are over 3,200 new undergraduate students this fall.

Wasson said that 85 percent of freshmen students are from Kentucky and 48 percent of freshmen are first-generation college students. 67 percent of freshmen are living in residence halls this semester.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wasson said that the residential population is 18 percent smaller this year.

Director of Athletics Matt Roan announced that the home football game against Western Carolina on Nov. 21 will be in honor of Sheila Pressley, dean of the College of Health Sciences, who passed away on Jan. 24.

Pressley was a graduate of Western Carolina.

“Because Dr. Pressley was an alum of Western Carolina, we think it is fitting that we recognize her and honor her legacy that day,” Roan said.

Roan said that athletics is still pursuing the opportunity to add a ninth or tenth game to the fall schedule.

The game day experience for the upcoming home football games will look different than in past seasons.

EKU has requested that the Governor and state allow 25 percent capacity at football games. This capacity is about 4,200 seats for the upcoming home games. This will allow at least 1,000 student tickets, all season ticket holders and limited single-game tickets.

Boxes and stadium club seating will be limited to 50 percent capacity.

“I would imagine tailgating is going to look very much different than it has in years past. We should have an announcement on those things in just a few days,” Roan said.

Roan said that the cheerleading team, dance team and band will be seated in the stands this season to limit the amount of people on the field.

Roan said that student-athletes in high contact sports like basketball, football, soccer and volleyball are being tested weekly.

Athletes in medium contact sports such as baseball, softball, beach volleyball and cross country are being tested bi-weekly.

Low contact sports like golf and track and field are conducting symptomatic testing.

Roan is expecting the basketball season to tip off on Nov. 10 but said it may be moved back to Nov. 25.

EKU Athletics has formed a Change Coalition that will be led by Grant Stepp and Rachel Park and made up of student-athletes, coaches and other athletics staff. Roan said athletics will make an official announcement about the new coalition next week.

He also announced that intramural sports will begin next week.

Brian Wilcox, associate vice president for facilities services, said that EKU has spent $63,000 to date to protect students from COVID-19 in campus facilities. They have re-set over 300 classroom layouts, added germicidal wipes to 374 spaces, deployed 180 sanitizer stations, posted 9,150 signs in buildings, 229 shields measured, created and deployed and 1,335 HVAC filters replaced.

Wilcox announced that the EKU sand volleyball complex is taking shape by Alumni Coliseum and the student recreation center. Wilcox said the project is on schedule to be completed for the start of the spring beach volleyball season.

The bricks on the Wallace building are being repaired. Work is on-going and students can expect construction workers in that area.

The pedway project over Eastern Bypass has begun. The pedway will be located in front of Alumni Coliseum. Wilcox said the pedway is scheduled to be completed in June 2021.

White Hall State Historic Site has an entirely new roof after a previous wind storm caused damage. Wilcox said that repairs from the wind storm have been completed.

The Kit Carson Commons construction taking place across the street from the College of Justice and Safety will be providing low-income housing for single parents and veterans. 

“There will be four classrooms for workforce development. Eastern Kentucky University workforce development department will be running the workforce training there for those individuals who live there and those individuals in the community who want to come and be able to participate in that process for educational opportunities,” McFaddin said.

McFaddin wants to provide the community with some education about what the project will entail for the campus community in the near future.

The next Board of Regents meeting will be on Dec. 10.

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