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Wearing a mask, Brittney Wilhelm staffs a table as she awaits any customers.
Brittney Wilhelm is prepared for customers at the repair shop

The Computer Repair Center was one of the first ITS groups to return to working from University buildings. On June 1, the CRC resumed operations from its main CRC repair shop located in the Facilities Services building on Airport Drive.

As the CRC prepared to reopen, Manager Peter Bolish said, “making sure my staff is 100% safe and that they feel 100% safe was the top priority.”

Nearly the entire time the CRC had been shuttered, managers were figuring out how the CRC could resume operations in a way that would best protect staff and customers amid the pandemic. The CRC had suspended operations in March when Carolina halted in-person, non-essential services to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Bolstering safety

Operating from a large space, CRC staff members can easily maintain a distance of six feet apart. Two technicians and one administrator operate from the center at a time. Staffers work one week on-site and two weeks off-site. In that way, should a staff member become exposed to the virus, there is shelter-at-home/quarantine time to prevent the entire staff being exposed to the coronavirus simultaneously.

Wearing a mask and gloves, an employee uses a power screwdriver on a laptop
Justin Sykes of the Computer Repair Center

The CRC also adopted new ways of serving customers to enable social distancing. ITS’ Managed Desktop Support and Service Desk Walk-in groups have effectively used Microsoft Bookings appointment scheduling app. The CRC chose to avail itself of Microsoft Bookings as well to require appointments and ensure in-person customers don’t overlap. The application also helps keep the staff away from the general public.

Accustomed to protective measures

The CRC is probably one of the best suited groups to return to in-person operations, Bolish said. The team is already used to diligent hand-washing practices, making available and using hand sanitizer, and wearing gloves. That’s because the CRC takes in computers that are quite often dirty, especially those from the K-12 school districts that the CRC also serves.

“We deal with biohazard machines on a regular basis,” Bolish said in jest, in reference to the peanut butter and jelly and all sorts of sticky, dirty things that manage to find their way onto their laptops. “We’re taking those precautions and ramping them up to the next level.”

Wearing a mask, staffer Kevin Lawrence works on laptop in the repair shop
Kevin Lawrence works in the repair shop

Upon reopening, the CRC worked closely with the Service Desk to get back into users’ hands the machines that were already repaired when the pandemic quickly halted operations in March.

Mailing some devices

For those students who graduated and moved on while their Carolina Computing Initiative (CCI) machines remained with the CRC, the group has shipped those computers to their owners. Customers who had borrowed loaner equipment are mailing those devices back to the CRC.

Customers have expressed their gratitude that the CRC is able to service their computers again, Bolish said.

Operating amid the continuing pandemic, of course, is challenging and requires dynamic, fluid arrangements. Naturally, some staff members are apprehensive.

For any employee who doesn’t feel safe, the CRC tries to find other work opportunities that are more remote and out of the norm for the CRC, like assisting with virtual orientation.

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