Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions Reopening

Governor Jay Inslee has provided guidance for reopening in-person instruction at higher education institutions, including Western Washington University, in the fall. In accordance with the Governor’s guidance to document a Safe Back-to-School Plan, this page identifies recommendations for reopening university operations, and indicates Western’s current status in meeting those recommendations.

Baseline recommendations for higher education institutions reopening plans

The following checklist comprises the State’s requirements for institutions of higher education in Washington State to reopen operations in the fall.

These actions will run in parallel to public health efforts and are subject to change based on public health guidance.

Guiding Considerations

  • Ways to protect the at-risk and vulnerable among our students, staff, faculty, and community
  • Operational and financial feasibility to ensure we are able to flexibly act should conditions shift
  • Support for social and emotional needs across all student populations
  • Ensuring equitable impacts on student outcomes

Western's Progress on Recommendations

The "status" columns in the following tables use the indicators "done" and "in progress," which means:

done Recommendation has already been followed and is in place for Summer Quarter

in progress Plans are in place to follow this recommendation when students return for Fall Quarter

Campus Safety
Recommendation Status
Adhere to federal, state and local public health and safety guidelines;  develop comprehensive plans for each phase of reopening in accordance with WA State guidelines and local health guidelines; make available a copy of these plans at each location on campus in progress
Work from home for operations able to be performed remotely and institutions will follow WA State returning to work guidance for its personnel done
Maintain minimum physical distancing whenever possible of 6 feet between all on-campus personnel, including with visitors; where physical distancing cannot be maintained, implement administrative or engineering controls to minimize exposure done
Follow WA State phased reopening guidelines for gathering sizes done
Ensure frequent and adequate hand washing policies and include adequate maintenance of supplies; use disposable gloves where safe/applicable to prevent transmission on shared items done
Routine sanitization of high-touch surfaces and shared resources (e.g., doorknobs, elevators, vending machines, points of sales) done
Ask students/personnel to self-certify that they have experienced no CV-19 symptoms since last visit to campus facility in progress
Ask students/personnel to stay home and seek medical guidance if they are experiencing any known symptoms; remain isolated until diagnosis and next steps are clear done
Ask students/personnel to self-quarantine per local public health guidelines if confirmed to have COVID-19 or exposed to confirmed case
Please see supporting guidance from the WA State Department of Health: Click for link
Develop response protocols for students, personnel, and visitors reporting symptoms and/or are confirmed to have COVID-19 in progress
Avoid non-essential travel by school personnel and propose self-quarantine per local public health and worker safety guidelines after any high-risk travel as defined by the CDC (e.g., international travel); follow WA State reopening guidelines for travel done
If feasible, log students, personnel (and visitors where possible);  follow WA State guidelines for logging onsite personnel in progress
Available contact for all students/personnel to report concerns and/or potential violations of the Safe Back-to-School Plan in progress
Regular self-monitoring and updates of the Safe Back-to-School Plan in progress
Communication of Safe Back-to-School Plan to all students and personnel including any future modifications done
Designate specific spaces for isolating campus personnel and/or students on-campus as needed (e.g. specific building campus personnel and/or students can quarantine in) done


Student and Personnel Support
Recommendation Status
Adhere to state and federal law for health and safety during COVID-19 including WA State's "Safe Start" guidelines and WA Labor & Industries guidelines done
Provide students/personnel with PPE such as gloves, goggles, face shields, and masks as appropriate or required for students/personnel not working alone (e.g. any public-facing job and/or those whose responsibility includes operating within physical distancing limits of 6 feet; if PPE cannot be provided as appropriate shut down activity
Note: Follow WA Labor and Industries guidelines for masks
in progress
Identify available alternative arrangements for students/personnel upon requests or refusals to work due to concerns related to campus safety. Priority should be given for students/personnel who are considered high-risk/vulnerable as defined by public health officials; Follow WA State guidelines for COVID-19 scenarios & benefits done
Educate students/personnel on symptom detection, sources of high risk to COVID-19, prevention measures, and leave benefits/policies (e.g., UI for personnel that need to self-quarantine); follow any education requirements for employers per WA COVID-19 safety plan done


Visitor Expectations
Recommendation Status
Limit or prohibit visitors in progress
Visible entry point signage for students, personnel, and visitors on shared on-campus responsibilities (including proper hygiene & sanitization, physical distancing/PPE guidance and information for reporting concerns, staying home if feeling sick) done


Additional considerations for campus support

The following recommendations are optional. Western is considering all of these recommendations.

Ongoing communication to workforce

  • Provide content for vulnerable students/personnel to help navigate back-to-school (e.g. aggregate helpful materials, explain evolving gov't benefits)

Enacting modified working models for personnel

  • Job shares that allow for reduced hours
  • Offer partial workforce or alternate day of week operating model
  • Different in-office working hours (e.g. two shifts: 6:30a-12:30p and 1p-7p with time between shifts)

Expanded / extended work from home & leave policies

  • Provide one-time home office supply voucher
  • Tiered PTO (e.g. FTEs get additional 80 hours; PTE get additional 40 hours; all paid out at year end if not used)
  • Create workforce relief/aid fund and adopt policy on how funds will be distributed
  • Create policies to encourage students/personnel to stay home when feeling sick or came into contact with positive case

Decreasing commute risks & pressure on public transport

  • Promote and enable individual commutes (e.g., subsidized biking/parking)
  • Institution-sponsored buses/transit options
  • Alternative hours to limit transportation during high public traffic hours

Providing additional training and resources 

  • Provide guidance on virtual and in-person teams
  • Provide career planning and resources
  • Train staff to support new back-to-school model
  • Post, in areas visible, required hygienic practices

Enabling access to education and childcare

  • On-site day care or study rooms for limited number of children per day
  • Voucher for online education tools
  • Access to apps to match caregivers with need (including recently displaced workers)
  • Priority for childcare for workers and students not able to WFH

Building morale and virtual culture

  • Create virtual HR office hours and/or HR hotline
  • Virtual companywide meetings
  • Create networks for workers to connect/share remote working best practices
  • Sponsor well-being challenges geared to staying physically and mentally healthy

Supporting mental health needs

  • Access to reduced cost and/or free counseling
  • Access to reduced cost and/or telemedicine consultations
  • Benefit extensions for household members
  • Access to meditation/mindfulness content
  • Digital support groups to decrease isolation and share ideas
  • Virtual play dates for families with children of similar ages
  • Expand virtual health and counseling and continue to provide virtual options after reopening

Ensuring equitable outcomes

  • Consider and mitigate any disproportionate impacts on a given population (e.g., due to instructional decisions)