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Classroom Protocols

Posted by on Friday, July 17, 2020 in .

The evolving COVID-19 pandemic requires that widespread and layered mitigation strategies be employed to lessen the probability of COVID-19 transmission. Vanderbilt will be employing a cohesive collection of comprehensive efforts that, combined, offers a best-in-class solution for the creation of a healthy, equitable and safe environment within classrooms.

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These protocols were established based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leading subject matter experts across our campus, and a range of faculty leaders including John McLean, co-chair of the University Continuity Working Group and Stevenson Professor of Chemistry, as well as the co-chairs of the University Working Group educational continuity subcommittee: André Christie-Mizell, dean of undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Science, and Mavis Schorn, senior associate dean for academics in the School of Nursing. Many of the resulting protocols apply to classrooms across the entire university.

Scientific reasoning for the face mask and face shield requirement with data embedded can be found here>>



  • Students must wear appropriate face mask/covering while in public spaces on campus, including during class. One (1) face mask/covering will be provided to students.
  • Faculty must wear appropriate face mask/covering while in public spaces on campus and must wear a face mask/covering or face shield during class. Face shields are offered to faculty because 1) instructors may be required to project loudly and may not have access to amplification in all classrooms and 2) there may be students with hearing impairments who rely on being able to see the instructor’s face when speaking. One (1) face shield and one (1) face mask/covering will be provided to faculty.
  • Students and faculty must be appropriately physically distanced in the classroom consistent with the university requirement of six feet of separation.
  • Students will be supplied with sanitizing wipes to take to their desks/seats to clean before class (similar to what one would do with gym equipment, but before instead of after use). Ideally, these materials will be located in areas that do not congest entry or exit from the classroom.
  • At or near the instructor’s location there will be sanitizing wipes for faculty use. At the exit of each classroom, there will be trash cans for students to dispose of used sanitizing wipes, and these trash cans will be emptied throughout the day.
  • Each classroom door will have signage indicating suggested maximum capacity to achieve physical distancing.
  • Students are not permitted to eat or drink in classrooms while class is in session.
  • For classrooms where there is more than one door, there will be a circulation plan and ingress/egress clearly marked.
  • When required by hazardous material safety requirements, students must wear gloves in teaching labs. Otherwise, gloves are optional.
  • For instructors teaching in classrooms with an existing wireless mic set-up to amplify the speaker’s voice in the classroom, the university will provide a personal lapel microphone attachment to use with the wireless transmitter in order to avoid sharing of the microphone.


  • Clear mobile boards should be available for use in the front of the classroom between faculty and students (i.e., around whiteboards, chalkboards, and podiums).
  • Attempt to create as large a buffer zone as possible, but no less than 6 feet, between the instructor and students. This buffer zone, otherwise marked as the instructor’s position, is intended to be a “no enter” zone for students. This distance may also be reinforced through use of the clear mobile boards.
  • An appropriate number of seats will be made available within classrooms to accommodate six feet of physical distancing (as measured from the center of each seat). Chairs that will be unavailable for use will either be removed or, if remaining within the classroom, will be marked with an appropriate and consistent chair strap applied to them to signify they are not to be used. Chairs should not be moved to reduce six-foot spacing.
  • Instructors may choose to assign seats and/or create specific circulation rules and inform students as clearly as possible, such as the first students to arrive should go to the farthest seat down a row and then would be the last student to depart.
  • Instructors are encouraged to take attendance.
  • Instructors may choose to use an omnidirectional boundary microphone that connects to their laptop for purposes of boosting the audio on the laptop for students connecting remotely.


All positive cases and close contacts are tracked by the Command Center. The Command Center is responsible for contact tracing and determining additional cleanings and protocols to implement.

If someone reports to a faculty or staff member that they are positive or a close contact, the faculty or staff member should tell them to stay in their residence, ask if they are working with Student or Occupational Health and if not, tell them to immediately log their positive result or close contact status with the Command Center on the webform. The Command Center will then launch all next steps, including the contact tracing, quarantine, symptom monitoring and any needed testing. Faculty and staff should not send out notifications to other faculty members, staff or students as the Command Center will handle all notifications.

If a positive case is enrolled in their in-person course, instructors are notified; however, the student will not be identified. Instructors will not need to take any further action unless directed to do so by the Command Center. Only those deemed close contacts through contact tracing will be notified. All students in quarantine (close contacts) or isolation (positive cases) will not attend in-person classes.