Preparing classrooms, labs and common areas for reduced capacity

The capacity of the nearly 650 classrooms and teaching laboratories on campus will be limited by 50% this fall to maintain physical distancing during in-person instruction. In coordination with the fall planning teams, facilities planning and management (FPM) has developed guidelines for preparing classrooms and teaching laboratories.

Paul Fuligni, associate vice president for facilities, said measures to limit use must be simple and quick to implement, and flexible enough to respond should safety standards change. Given the limited storage on campus, unused furniture should remain in the classroom or lab. Fuligni said FPM will prepare general university classrooms. Colleges and departments are responsible for assessing and preparing their classrooms using the following standards:

  • Allow 8 feet between the instructor and closest student seating. No plastic or other barrier should be placed between the instructor and students.
  • Use every other seat in each row. If possible, stagger occupied seating of alternate rows.
  • Ensure all accessible seating remains open, with the exception of seating within 8 feet of the instructor. Adjacent seats should be unoccupied.
  • In rooms with tablet arm chairs, retain half of the left-hand chairs.

Guidelines for download

FPM documents on creating appropriate spacing in instructional areas and common areas are available under the July 8 update on the COVID-19 updates website.

Fuligni said the guidelines are designed to make the best use of the space without obstructing accessible seating or emergency exits. That is why clear plastic or any other type of barrier is not allowed at the front of the classroom.

"Barriers could reduce the ability of students to hear and see their instructor and displayed information. They also restrict the instructor's movement at the front of the class," Fuligni said. "Large barriers could obstruct emergency exiting from the room. For these reasons, we're adding extra distance between the instructor and students."

If teaching laboratories are not configured with at least 6 feet of separation between stations, only use every other station without eliminating any accessible stations. Libraries on campus -- Parks, Veterinary Medicine and College of Design -- need to provide 6 feet of separation between occupied seats and maintain accessible seating.

The downloadable document includes illustrations on how to set a room with moveable tables and chairs as well as a room with moveable tablet arm chairs -- the two most common classroom arrangements. "Do not use" stickers are available through printing services. Fuligni recommends using the stickers wherever possible to designate seating that will not be used. To ensure seats are not occupied near the instructor or accessible seating, or where a sticker is not possible, use a zip-tie, strap or plastic wrap.

Recommendations for building common areas

FPM also developed guidance, approved by the university emergency operations center, for common areas, such as hallways, waiting areas and restrooms. Fuligni said the intent is to maintain 6 feet separation where possible. The following recommendations may not work for all buildings.

  • Building entrances: Designate separate entrance and exit doors using university-approved signage. Make sure entrances and exits are fully accessible and fire exits are not obstructed.
  • Corridors and stairs: Designate single direction for walking in each hallway and staircase that allows access to the entire building. Paths must be accessible and routes cannot end in stairways.
  • Open waiting areas at service counters: Mark 6 foot intervals on the floor with university-approved markings.
  • Elevators: Post signage encouraging people to use the stairs, if able, and limiting elevator use to one person at a time if possible. If more than one person is on an elevator, they should wear face coverings.
  • Restrooms: Post signage for face coverings.
  • Open-seating areas: Seating must be separated by 6 feet. Tables should be limited to one seat when separation is not possible.


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