As pandemic spread continues and variants pose public health threats, The College of New Jersey's School of the Arts and Communication leverages hard science to welcome back students.

EWING, N.J., March 23, 2021 - In the beginning months of 2021, colleges are welcoming back students. As pandemic spread continues and variants pose public health threats, educational institutions confront challenges to reintroduce in-person learning. Traditionally an arts and media hub, the School of the Arts and Communication leverages hard science to reopen creative spaces, transforming The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) into one of the safest campuses in the US.

"The college's goal in performing airborne infection risk calculations was to implement strategies to help mitigate both infection risk and transmission rate," says Campus Engineer David Matlack. "Recirculation is the concern. Whether singing or playing an instrument, music students emit aerosols," adds Richard Kroth, Director of Operations for TCNJ's Center for the Arts.

In preparation for onsite instruction, the school collaborated with a college-wide initiative to conduct a two-part indoor space review. The first analysis was an indoor air quality (IAQ) examination performed by Entech Engineering to assess high risk spaces and develop strategies to mitigate transmission. The subsequent airflow testing conducted by Horizon Engineering Associates verified that outdoor air provided to building spaces met American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) COVID guidance. Both steps addressed Kendall Hall performance spaces, the largest on campus, and the Music Building housing Mayo Concert Hall.

This two-part infrastructural study informs learning and scheduling reforms. "From the outset of the pandemic, we had to redefine the music education experience," says Director of Bands and Assistant Professor of Music Eric Laprade. "Though logistics of creating safe performance spaces were challenging to navigate, the opportunity to make music together again was well-worth the meticulous planning," explains Chair of the Department of Music, Coordinator of Music Education and Associate Professor Colleen Sears.

The Department of Music incorporates standards set by the International Coalition of Performing Arts Aerosol Study. In addition to providing masks specialized for music performance, chairs and music stands are distanced beyond six-feet apart, indicated by taped sections on the floor. Surfaces are sanitized between use, and practices are limited to 35 minutes to allow air flushing.

The School of the Arts and Communication Dean Maurice Hall says, "We are committed to making TCNJ one of the safest colleges in the US."

The School of the Arts and Communication is TCNJ's interdisciplinary arts, performance, music, multimedia and communication studies branch. Proud to provide students with a top-tier liberal arts education, the School is an inclusive community of dedicated teaching professionals focused on preparing young minds to flourish as productive citizens in a complex world. Watch student films and music performances on ArtsComm DIGITAL, a brand-new digital platform by the School of the Arts and Communication.

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