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Classroom Safety Updates for Fall 2021

A message to faculty

Dear Colleagues,

Next week many of us will be returning to campus to teach for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. It will be wonderful to reconnect with our students and the other members of our UMBC community even as we learn to navigate the safety precautions and protocols that have been put in place to keep us all healthy and safe.

Below are some guidelines to help us prepare for this significant transition back to in-person instruction.

Classroom Safety
Face coverings or masks are required to be worn in buildings. If you are alone in your office you may remove your mask, but you must wear a mask when you are indoors around other people. Masks are not required outdoors unless you are participating in an activity or event that requires them. More information on UMBC’s masking protocol and how to handle compliance issues in the classroom is available here.

There are three locations available for people who come to campus and need a mask: the check-in desk at the RAC, the Library circulation desk, and the campus information desk in Commons. 

In addition, Facilities Management distributed one thousand masks to each college. Faculty and students in COEIT and CNMS can pick up masks from their departments’ main offices.  Faculty in CAHSS should ask their department Administrative Assistants or their Chairs about where to pick up masks. Masks may also be picked up in the ESAS Dean's Office.

Suggested Language for Syllabi on Safety Protocols and Compliance
Faculty teaching in-person classes or hybrid classes with an in-person component should consider including the following language in their syllabi in addition to any specific expectations they have with regard to the management of their classrooms:

“UMBC has set clear expectations for masking while on campus that include the requirement that you must wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth in all classrooms regardless of your vaccination status. This is to protect your health and safety as well as the health and safety of your classmates, instructor, and the university community.   Anyone attending class without a mask or wearing one improperly will be asked by the instructor to put on a mask or fix their mask in the appropriate position. Any student that refuses to comply with this directive will be asked to leave the classroom immediately and failure to do so will result in the instructor requesting the assistance of the University Police. Students who refuse to wear masks may be referred to Student Conduct and Community Standards and may face disciplinary action for violations of the Code of Student Conduct, specifically, Rule 2: Behavior Which Jeopardizes the Health or Safety of Self or Others and Rule 16: Failure to Comply with the Request of a University Official. UMBC’s on-campus safety protocols, including masking requirements, are subject to change in response to the evolving situation with Covid-19.”

Covid-related Classroom Absences
Class absences may take the form of not attending an in-person class or a scheduled synchronous online class; or not participating in online class activities (synchronous or asynchronous). Students who are absent from class due to COVID-19-related situations are expected to communicate directly with the course instructor. Students should submit notification of the absence in writing to their instructor either prior to the absence or as soon afterwards as possible. If the COVID-19 related absence coincides with graded work (e.g., homework, in-class activities, quizzes, presentations, activities, etc.), students should work with the instructor to arrange for an academic accommodation. 

It is important to affirm that class absences, COVID-19-related or not, do not alter the academic requirements of any course and students remain responsible for information and material missed during the absence. Additionally, COVID-19-related absences are not considered a “disability” and as such do not require that students seek accommodations from the Office of Student Disability Services.

More information on Covid-related Classroom absences is available here.

Classroom Management
Since physical distancing is a key campus safety measure, classrooms have capacities that limit attendance to allow for distancing. The occupancy limit will be posted outside the classroom. Instructors may distribute students within the classroom or rearrange the furniture for pedagogical purposes as long as occupants can maintain a minimum of  three feet of physical distancing. If furniture is moved it should be returned to its original location for the next class. Additional information on UMBC’s guidance on physical distancing is available here.

Cleaning supplies will be available in each classroom. These supplies include disinfecting wipes or spray bottles with paper towels. The wipe dispensers have stickers on them with the work control number for Facilities Management so that faculty can call if there is any problem with the dispensers. They will also be checked on a daily basis. Instructors should encourage students to wipe down their seats and work surfaces before the class begins. If there are concerns about chemical sensitivity to the classroom cleaning materials, please reach out to the Office of Environmental Safety and Health.

Classroom windows should not be opened as this has the potential to disrupt the operation of the building HVAC system.

Additional information on classroom safety can be found here.

Technology Resources
The Division of Information Technology has upgraded classrooms and has added a variety of mobile carts specifically designed to support synchronous lecture capture. More information about these upgrades, including the conversion of the University Center (UC) Ballroom into a hub for 25 large-enrollment lecture courses, and the new technology resources for faculty is available here.

Class Modality
Students who are enrolled in in-person and/or hybrid classes with an in-person component  were informed prior to registering that they are expected to attend on-campus sessions in person. 

On-Campus Study Spaces
UMBC has designated several spaces for commuting students to use for online access of classes in between their in-person courses:
  • Sondheim 2nd floor: rooms 203-209 (160 seats)
  • Engineering: rooms 104-104a; 333, 336, first and second floor atriums (150 seats)
  • Library: The Retriever Learning Center and floors 2-7 have 450 seats, including study spaces. 

Continuity of Classroom Instruction
Instructors teaching in-person classes this semester should have a plan in place to ensure continuity of classroom instruction if they or a dependent test positive for Covid-19 or must quarantine because of exposure to someone with Covid-19.

Wellbeing and Mental Health
The University recognizes that this has been an incredibly difficult time for us and our students. UMBC’s Counseling Center has compiled a list of resources that may be useful in helping us work with students who are experiencing anxiety or depression as well as those who may have lost a loved one to covid. You should also review the UMBC Faculty and Staff Guide for Helping a Person in Distress.

Supporting Students with Disabilities
Faculty will receive a letter from Student Disability Services (SDS) if an accommodation is required for a student to have equal access in their course due to a disability. If a student is seeking classroom accommodations due to the impact of a documented disability, please refer them to SDS for an intake discussion (sds.umbc.edu).

Additional questions may be answered by consulting UMBC's Retriever Ready COVID-19 Response webpage or directed to covid19@umbc.edu

These guidelines may change to reflect the evolving situation with Covid-19. The University follows the guidance of federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as state and local government officials and the University System of Maryland.

Thank you for your commitment to UMBC, our mission, and your students. We look forward to seeing you this semester.

Philip Rous, Provost
Orianne Smith, Faculty Senate President
The COVID-19 Academic Coordinating and Planning Committee

Posted: September 2, 2021, 2:18 PM