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Source: University of Waikato

A team that includes cleaners, security, facilities management, groundskeeping, logistics and porters was among the University of Waikato’s busiest during the recent Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

As academic staff and students went into a mid-trimester break at Level 4 and prepared for a return to online learning, and other University staff set up their home desktops again, the Property Services team methodically toured the Hamilton and Tauranga campuses, turning off heating and lights, shutting down labs and locking access.

Regular patrols of the campuses monitored not only security but also buildings and plant, and ensured essential workers still operating on campus were able to do so safely. Part of this included supporting student accommodation workers and cleaning and sanitising areas where essential staff were operating as usual.

Once it was clear when staff and students would return to campus at Level 2, Business Improvement Manager Lynn Bourne says Property Services shifted into another gear.

“The team did quite a lot of work at a rapid pace over the different levels to make sure we could come back to campus. Everyone was keen to pitch in and get it done.”

With greater restrictions on gatherings and movement than previous Level 2 guidelines, ‘getting it done’ involved a lot more work. Directing the flow of foot traffic through campus meant arrows on paths and stairs needed to be marked out, as well as single entry and exit points for lecture theatres. Spacing requirements had to be marked with tape in large gathering spaces and with green dots on lecture theatre seats.

Carpenter Pete Regas spraypaints an arrow to direct foot traffic

The lockdown also coincided with the implementation of a project to replace the University’s bespoke contact tracing system, ‘Check in before you step in’, with more comprehensive application of the Government’s NZ Covid Tracer QR codes. This involved the removal of thousands of old QR codes from buildings, rooms and offices, and installation of thousands of new Covid Tracer app codes.

Lynn says even with six teams of three working to cover the entire campus, putting up the new QR code posters was more time consuming than expected, due to the super adhesive nature of the sticky dots used to affix them to surfaces.

“It was hilarious and frustrating at the same time – the strips of dots stick to everything, and one group ended up with a big ball of them intertwined with each other. We definitely lost a lot of skin on the fingertips from them!”

Generating the new codes and tracking down every banner, poster and display featuring the old codes, as well as distributing more masks, hand sanitiser and manual check-in forms ready for the campus to reopen took not only a lot of work on site but behind the scenes as well.

Support Services Coordinator Ian Titterington installs a new NZ Covid Tracer QR code poster

Chief Operating Officer Jim Mercer says Lynn Bourne proved invaluable in leading much of this unseen coordination.

“Lynn was a real lynchpin in our successful move up and down alert levels, and her management of operations and liaison across all teams for campus access, QR codes, distancing protocols and signage was all done while she juggled childcare at home.”

Lynn credits the people she worked with for the success of re-activating campus safely and efficiently.

“We work with a great bunch of people who all wanted to help, there was never any pushback. People like Cathy Cross and her team in ITS did a heap of work, especially with the access process.”

As for doing it all while locked down with an essential worker and young children, Lynn says she’s probably no different to all the other families who balanced competing priorities.

“I didn’t stress over schooling; our school prioritised family over schoolwork, so the days were busy with work and the kids were pretty self-managing. On the weekends we got out of the house to the fields for some fresh air, games and bike riding!”