On Oct. 29, Boise State Housing and Residence Life sent an email to students residing in Jasper and Topaz Halls stating the university’s decision to convert the two halls into isolation spaces for students who test positive for COVID-19.
“As Boise State has helped students move into isolation spaces this semester, we’ve learned a lot about how to make the process as smooth as possible for everyone. While we’ve had isolation spaces in other residence halls, it’s very apparent that our COVID nursing team – who supports students in isolation every day – can best serve those students when they are in the same building. So we’ve made the difficult decision to close Jasper and Topaz Halls in University Square to convert them to isolation spaces.”
Chloe Toone, a freshman in the interdisciplinary program, and Megan Watson, a freshman elementary education major, are roommates in Jasper Hall who say they were shocked to receive the news.
“I saw the email come up on my phone and genuinely thought it was a joke. I thought someone was pranking us,” Toone said.
Housing and Residence Life gave students until Nov. 3 to fill out a reassignment form. After students were given a new housing assignment, students could move when they had time, but Boise State has designated Nov. 18-20 as official move-in days with helpers to aid in the process.
The big question for Toone and Watson was whether or not they could stay together as roommates.
“We originally filled out the form to be reassigned because we thought it would be a better chance for us to still stay together and have the same dorm, but there was no guarantee for anything,” Toone said.
Housing and Residence Life has stated on their FAQ page that the university will do their best to keep roommates together during the transition.
“We’ll do everything possible to keep roommates together, but given the limitations of available spaces, it may be necessary to move some roommates into separate suites. In these cases, we’ll do our best to keep roommates who can’t live in the same suite in the same building,” Housing and Residence Life wrote.
With all the uncertainties Toone and Watson faced, the two luckily found an apartment off-campus and signed the lease within one week of receiving the news about the transition of Jasper and Topaz halls.
Toone and Watson understand why Boise State has made this decision, but wish they would have been told this was a possibility at the beginning of the fall semester.
“I get it. I get why they’re doing it. I wish they would have given us a warning like, ‘by the way, we might be converting your hall’ because it’s kind of unfair everyone in these two buildings has to deal with it and no one else does,” Watson said.
Overall, Toone is disappointed with how her first semester of college has gone.
“It kind of seems like [Boise State] knew they were going to do it, they just wanted to see if it was worth it,” Toone said. “We’ve been here for what, two and a half months? Our first semester of college is totally wrong. It’s just not what everyone else has had to deal with.”
Given the circumstances, both Toone and Watson still love Boise State and are excited for their spring semester together.
“I love Boise. I understand what they’re doing, they just could have done it better, but it’s not made me think of the school any differently,” Toone said.
For Toon and Watson, the transition arguably worked in their favor. Now, they have a place to live after the school year is over.
“We really love Boise and we want to stay here over the summer, which is why the apartment worked out because now we have a place to live this summer,” Watson said.
Executive Director of Housing and Residence Life Luke Jones spoke about Boise State’s decision to transition Jasper and Topaz halls into isolation spaces.
“It’s about consolidating our isolation spaces to a central location on campus where we can better support students and our team that’s there,” Jones said. “As well as with food delivery and some of our case managers who are there to serve students who need to use those spaces.”
According to Jones, the transition isn’t necessarily about a sudden increase in positive COVID-19 cases.
“There isn’t an increase in case rates. We did do some testing recently on campus, but our positivity rate was really low compared to what it’s been,” Jones said. “What we’re preparing for is being able to do ongoing testing of all residential students. This helps us have a solid strategy in place.”
As of now, Boise State is not sure whether or not they will make similar residency transitions in the spring.
Overall, Jones is proud of the students and staff at Boise State and is glad the university has remained open this semester.
“While it’s been a hard year and not the traditional living on-campus experience, if there is any silver lining in it all it’s that our protocols and the steps and the actions that our students have taken to follow those has worked,” Jones said. “We’ve been able to keep our campus open and that was our goal. Let’s be able to have some on-campus experience, rather than none. With the students’ help, we’ve been able to do it.”