Information on Safety Measures in Face-to-Face Classes for Faculty, Teaching Associates

Dear Faculty Member or Teaching Associate:

As we plan for the Spring Semester, the safety of our instructors, students and staff is our highest priority. During the fall semester UMass Amherst created a new Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC) and implemented a wide range of health and safety measures, including in classrooms, as well as an extensive testing, contact tracing and quarantine/isolation protocols.

Because you are an instructor of a face-to-face class on campus this Spring Semester, we would like to provide you with information on the public health and safety measures in place:

Zoom Informational Session
A Zoom informational panel session is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 22 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. This session will provide you with information on public health measures the university has in place for face-to-face classes in classrooms/labs/studios, including the setup of instruction spaces and cleaning protocols; an overview of how you will be notified if a student in your class/lab/studio tests positive for COVID-19; a panel involving faculty who taught face-to-face in the fall who will discuss their experiences; and an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have. Please register for this event through the Center for Teaching & Learning.

Classroom/Lab/Studio Walk-Throughs
If you would like to schedule a walk-through of the class/lab/studio you have been assigned for your Spring 2021 face-to-face class with representatives from Facilities and Environmental Health & Safety, please contact Melissa Bergeron. This will provide you an opportunity to see the space in advance of the semester and to ask any questions about public health and facilities. Walk-throughs are offered on Monday, Jan. 25 and Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Classroom/Lab/Studio Supplies Provided
Environmental Health and Safety will provide UMass face masks for all faculty/instructors teaching face-to-face courses. Face shields will also be provided to those needing them. Both the face masks and face shields will be delivered to your respective colleges for distribution.

In addition, custodial services will provide cleaning supplies throughout the semester. Cleaning supplies are placed directly in face-to-face classrooms and include disinfectant, sanitizer in bottles, sanitizing wipes, packets of disposable masks, tissues and paper towels. Sanitizing stations are also placed in main entrances. If faculty need additional supplies, they should contact askcustodial@umass.edu 

Facility Questions
Please call the Facilities Solutions Center at 413-545-6401 if you encounter any building or instructional space issues that require assistance; for example, issues related to temperature, access, custodial services and instructional space furniture. 

Instructor Public Health Requirements
It will be important that appropriate public health guidelines are followed within the classroom, lab or studio in which you are teaching. These include measures you should take yourself as well as how to guide students and their behavior in your class.

  • Complete the daily COVID-19 Checklist prior to arrival on campus.
  • Face coverings are required by all students, instructors and teaching assistants in the classroom.
  • Develop single-use, non-shared stations and materials for items that cannot be cleaned/disinfected between users.
  • Ensure that shared equipment, items or spaces are cleaned/disinfected between different users.
  • Consider, where feasible, preparing individual sets of materials for students to use instead of having multiple students dispense items from a single source.
  • Ensure there is no eating and drinking in class.
  • Before class begins, disinfect the instructor work area and commonly touched surfaces (A/V equipment, desk, door handle, laboratory/studio equipment, etc.).
  • Remind students to disinfect their spaces before class begins and after class ends.
  • Direct any student exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 to University Health Services.
  • After class ends, make sure the space is set up to support social distancing for the next class.
  • Review the classroom classroom laboratories public health requirement flyers, posted in each classroom.
  • Ensure social distancing guidelines are followed:
  • Students and others should remain at least six feet apart when possible.
  • Follow traffic flow patterns and seating patterns to maximize distance between individuals and ensure students are instructed on maintaining these patterns.
  • Consider, where feasible, having all needed materials for labs, studios or other activities at students’ workstations to minimize the need for students to move around to secure items.
  • Relocate commonly used, shared equipment away from work areas.
  • If students must work in groups, ensure the same students always work together to minimize the possibility of cross-group transmission.
  • Put in place a protocol to answer questions from students after class so as to avoid too many students coming up at once and congregating together without appropriate social distancing in place.
  • Adhere to maximum public health occupancy limits.
  • Visitor access should be limited. If having a visitor to the class is necessary, keep a log of who and when for later contract tracing if necessary.

Interim Pandemic Policy for Students
All the students enrolled in your course have received the Interim Pandemic Policy for students. Should a student violate the public health protocol within your classroom, lab or studio, we ask that you first talk to the student reminding them of the importance of complying with these protocols. Students will make mistakes and sometimes these mistakes are unintentional. A simple reminder can help put them back on the right track right away. 

Should a student repeatedly violate the public health protocols after you have reminded them of the importance of complying, you are asked to submit a referral to the Student Conduct and Community Standards Office (SCCS) in the Dean of Students Office (Incident Reporting: Student Conduct Referral tab on right hand side of page). The SCCS will send the student a Behavioral Notice reiterating the expectations for student behavior, reinforce the importance of these expectations, describe the possible consequences of subsequent incidents, and offer to answer the student’s questions. If behavior is persistent or egregious, the student’s behavior will be evaluated in relation to the policies outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.

A compliance director has also been assigned to monitor testing compliance for students enrolled in face-to-face classes/labs/studios and intervene if needed. Faculty/instructors, therefore, do not need to ask students to show you their compliance status. Such oversight will be handled by the compliance director.

The Public Health Team is instituting a Green Checkmark system for students who are not being actively monitored by the compliance director. These students are not enrolled in face-to-face classes but may be interested in attending events, use the Recreation Center, or participate in other activities on campus.

Positive Test Notification Process
If a student in your classroom/lab/studio tests positive for COVID-19, the instructor of record for the class will be notified by the Provost’s Office. The student will be contacted first by the Public Health Team from the Public Health Promotion Center with instructions on how they need to isolate and with a contact tracing investigation occurring. The faculty/instructors will then be notified by the Provost’s Office informing them that a student in their class has tested positive. The student will be told to contact the faculty member directly to make accommodations for missed class time. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 typically isolate for at least 10 days from the time they are tested or symptoms first appeared, but could be isolated for longer periods if symptoms persist.

It is extremely important that you treat any private health information you may directly or indirectly receive in a confidential manner and not share information on a student testing positive in your class. The student will be isolated on campus or at their home and will be absent from class while in isolation. Any assistance you can provide for the student to continue progress within the class or for alternative accommodations to make up the missed work will be greatly appreciated.

If you are notified of a positive test in your class/lab/studio, you do not need to take any action. It is important to note that during the Fall Semester among students who wore their masks, tested positive, and had in-person classes, there was no evidence of any classroom transmission. The Public Health Team will determine, through contact tracing and other means of investigating the positive test, if additional steps need to be taken in the class/lab/studio at which point you will be notified. If there is evidence of classroom exposure, there will be targeted communications to those directly exposed. Only in rare circumstances will an entire classroom need to be notified. Buildings with in-person classes, teaching labs, research and outdoor tents used for instruction are cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis using protocols established by Environmental Health & Safety. Per Massachusetts Department of Public Health and CDC protocols, individuals who test positive are not required to be tested for 90 days. After students complete their period of isolation and is cleared by the university’s Public Health Team, they may return to class.

Students Identified for Quarantine
Students identified through contact tracing as needing to quarantine, which is someone exposed to a COVID-19 positive individual, will be contacted by the Public Health Team. Students will be told to contact their faculty member directly that they will be absent from class. A typical quarantine period lasts 10 to 14 days. You do not need to do anything with the whole class if students inform you that they are in quarantine. If there is evidence of classroom exposure, there will be targeted communications from the Public Health Team to those directly exposed. Only in rare circumstances will an entire classroom need to be notified.

Teaching Assistants
If you have teaching assistants helping you with a class or overseeing their own discussion/lab section of a course, please share this information, including the expectations under the Instructor Public Health Requirements (above). So as not to put your TAs in a difficult situation, you may want to ask them to provide you information regarding any students not complying with the public health protocol, so you can follow up directly regarding the student behavior.

Asymptomatic Testing
Instructors, teaching associates and teaching assistants who teach face-to-face will go through asymptomatic testing once per week. All students who reside on campus are required to be tested twice a week. In addition, off-campus students coming to campus for face-to-face classes, research labs or work also are required to be tested twice a week. For more information about the Asymptomatic Testing Program and Daily Screening, please visit the COVID-19 Testing Programs webpage

Wishing you a wonderful, healthy and safe Spring 2021 semester.

Co-Directors of the Public Health Promotion Center (PHPC) 

Jeffery Hescock, Executive Director of Environmental Health and Safety
Ann Becker, Public Health Director