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Campus dining to reopen dining halls for indoor seating

| Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Following an extended closure of indoor seating in the dining halls due to COVID-19, dine-in seating in North and South Dining Halls will reopen Oct. 5. As colder weather is expected to limit outdoor dining options, Campus Dining, along with other working groups, made the decision to reactivate the dining halls. 

“As our weather changes, [we want] to provide a facility to be able to dine in and also be somewhat secure from the elements,” campus dining director Chris Abayasinghe said. 

While dine-in seating will be available, students will continue to be able to take their meals to go. Abayasinghe said the dining halls will be configured so there is still adequate spacing for students to queue while waiting for food. 

“[At North] we’re going to reconfigure the area where you might pick up your beverages into seating, and then of course you have the additional landings that we will reactivate,” he said. “At South, we will reactivate East Wing and West Wing.” 

Abayasinghe estimates that South Dining Hall will be able to hold around 500 students at any time, while North Dining Hall’s capacity will be approximately 400 students. All students will be seated at least six feet apart from each other, and plexiglass shields will separate diners in accordance with St. Joseph County guidelines. Protocols will also be in place to sanitize the dining areas.

“We are really focused … on our continued cleaning and disinfection protocols because that will also be in tandem with this,” Abayasinghe said.

Courtesy of Chris Abayasinghe

Plexiglass shields will separate diners in order to reduce potential virus transmission.

Campus Dining collaborated with Student Affairs, the local health department and others to plan for how to provide safe indoor seating. Abayasinghe said he received a lot of student feedback that sparked the discussion about how to adapt to the colder conditions.

“Our students love to provide feedback. So for many students, especially over the last week or so as the weather started to turn, this became the most frequently used topic,” he said. “Additionally, with the engagement that my department has with Student Government and student leadership as well, there has been encouragement for us to move forward on this conversation.”

The University also expects indoor dining spaces in LaFortune and Duncan Student Centers to reopen Nov. 1. Dining spaces will be open on the first two floors of Duncan while LaFortune will have seating on all floors. Abayasinghe added that the Nov. 1 target date is tentative as the University continues to monitor COVID-19 data on campus. 

Additionally, Campus Dining is working on providing conditioning in the tents in order to provide comfortable seating in the spaces already adapted to the health guidelines.

The announcement of available indoor seating comes as the University attempts to provide dining and gathering spaces that follow local health guidelines. Recently, South Quad and the area west of Hesburgh Library received chairs and fire pits. 

Ryan Peters | The Observer

South Quad recently received chairs and fire pits at which students may gather.

Devon Sanchez-Ossorio, assistant director for events and services, said in an email that the popularity of Library Lawn pushed the Student Activities Office (SAO) and the wide variety of units who collaborated on Library Lawn to add additional gathering spaces.

The Library Lawn has been so well received by students that we initially expanded it to include the area west of Hesburgh Library, adding additional chairs, fire pits, and lights. Given the interest we have seen from students in these spaces, we decided to move forward with introducing an additional inviting outdoor space to [South Quad] while the weather is still nice,” Sanchez-Ossorio said. 

Sanchez-Ossorio said there are currently no plans to create any more gathering areas, but SAO is open to feedback.   

“While we do not currently have any plans to expand to additional areas on campus, we remain receptive to student feedback and look forward to seeing the impact these existing spaces have on our campus community,” Sanchez-Ossorio said.

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