College provides synthetic ice rink for students to skate during quarantine

A portion of the Henderson Campus Center’s upper parking lot has been transformed into an ice skating rink available to students free of charge until Sunday, March 7. 

Much like the rink from Winterfest in 2019, this acrylic “ice-less” rink was sponsored by Allegheny Recreations and Gator Activities Programming. 

According to Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students April Thompson, the college decided to use synthetic ice as opposed to real ice to prevent serious injuries and ensure that students would be able to skate even in warmer temperatures. 

The total capacity is limited to 25 individuals, and mask guidelines and social distancing protocols remain in effect on the synthetic ice. Students are not required to have any experience with ice skating, and skate aids as well as helpers are available for students to use. 

Jabriya Hester, ’21, president of GAP, explained the uniqueness of the rink, especially during this period of on-campus quarantine.

“The ice rink requires special skates,” Hester said. “It’s a way for students to get out of their rooms and interact with people while also being safe. Although we are stuck on campus … students have a way to interact without having to be worried about (COVID-19).”

Skates were provided for students to use at the rink. Student organizations are able to host a refreshments stand for students at the skating rink. On Friday, Feb. 26, the day the rink opened, GAP hosted a refreshment stand, providing hot chocolate and snacks for the participants. 

Hester reflected upon her experience at the skating rink and encouraged other students to participate as well. 

“If you are able to make it, it is an interesting experience,” Hester said. 

The following day, on Saturday, Feb. 27, Grounds for Change hosted a refreshments stand that featured coffee and pastries. 

Bill Ochieng, ’24, works at the ice rink and provided some insight on its operations.

Student workers, like Ochieng, supervise the rink to ensure that everyone is obeying COVID-19 guidelines and college policies. Prior to using the rink, students have to fill out a COVID-19 disclosure form. This form affirmed that they have recently tested negative for the COVID-19, Ochieng explained.

“We also sanitize pens (used to fill out forms) and skates after they are used,” Ochieng said.

Ochieng mentioned that students are able to socialize at the rink under physical distancing guidelines and meet new people, which is important, especially to first-year students. “The rink has been a great experience to learn something new and to meet lots of new people,” Ochieng said. “This is my first semester on campus so it is great to see so many new people.”

In an email to the campus community, on March 3, Allegheny College Health Agency’s Dr. Gabrielle Morrow announced that campus-wide quarantine had been extended until further notice. 

“I am writing to inform you that the campus quarantine will unfortunately not be lifted tomorrow, March 4,” Morrow wrote. “Right now, there are 67 students in quarantine and isolation. Fifteen students are currently positive for COVID-19; this is higher than our total at any time in the fall.”

The ice rink will be open tonight and tomorrow evening from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is unknown if the ice rink will continue to be available for the duration of the campus-wide quarantine extension.