Contributed photo by Caitlin Howell

Despite Keene State College’s campus being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some essential staff are still left working. This includes some dining commons staff members and janitorial staff. 

Marketing manager for Chartwells Caitlin Howell said that the number of staff members working in the dining hall, for right now, has been cut back.

“With the closing of campus and curtailed operations, Keene State Dining’s managers have taken over all dining responsibilities, from food preparation, cooking, cleaning, packaging and serving food to students,” Howell said. “For the remainder of the academic year, at this time, all hourly associates have been placed on furlough.”

For the managers who remain on campus, regular health and safety measures are being strictly followed.

“Keene State Dining follows strict cleaning and safety procedures already. All meals are available via online ordering for the students still on campus, to ensure we are preparing necessary food and meeting all safety guidelines,” Howell said.

However, the number of students who remain on campus has dramatically decreased due to the closure of the college. This, coupled with the need to remain safe and healthy, contributed to the move to Hoot ‘n’ Scoot.

“With the closure of the student center by Keene State College on Friday, March 20, Lloyd’s Marketplace and We Proudly Brew Starbucks were also closed,” Howell said. “Zorn Dining Commons closed on March 15 and all food operations were moved to the Hoot ‘n’ Scoot. This allowed us to serve meals to students while ensuring we were able to follow the new restrictions instated by the state.”

Director of Campus Life Jennifer Ferrell also described some other precautions that were taken in regards to dining.

“As the days moved forward, we adjusted hours, removed self-serve options, changed to disposable dishware, removed the hand scanners, added additional sanitizing stations, etc., ultimately leading to the closure of the Dining Commons and continuing service only through meals-to-go options,” Ferrell said. “Meals-to-go can provide the students with food options and a low chance of exposure to others.”

KSC President Melinda Treadwell said that the custodial staff was essential to the move-out days that occured from Sunday, March 22, to Tuesday, March 24.

“I had the privilege of working with some of the custodial staff during the move-out process that we did over the past couple of days with residential life. When I think about the most professional and dedicated members on our campus, this team was just incredible,” Treadwell said.

Treadwell also expanded on these essential teams potentially working alongside the city of Keene in the near future to help alleviate the financial stress some individuals and groups may be experiencing at this time. 

“We’ve been working with the city and the region to see what, if anything, they need from us that we could offer to support the state and region in response to COVID-19,” Treadwell said. “Our dining service partners have said that we can prepare meals, we can pack meals to be delivered to the food insecure or the individuals that might be housebound and that we can provide meals to responders. I’ve been so impressed.”

As for how these additional measures will transition back to “normal” in the future, Ferrell said that it is probably still too soon to tell when and how that will be. 

“I would expect that a number of safety measures and risk mitigation strategies will need to remain in place for quite some time,” Ferrell said. “I would also expect that ‘normal’ will mean something different in future semesters. It is our hope that all of the team members who have been laid off are able to return and jump back into their roles with excitement when that time comes.”


Rachel Vitello can be contacted at

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