Physical Distancing in Classrooms (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #19)


Date:       September 3, 2020

To:           Iowa State University Faculty

From:      Jonathan Wickert                              

                Senior Vice President and Provost

Subject:   Physical Distancing in Classrooms (SVPP COVID-19 Communication #19)

We continue to update our plans for fall instruction, and this communication provides information about changing seating charts to increase physical distancing, and options for faculty to move their courses to larger classrooms.

Increasing physical distancing in classrooms 1 – moving to larger classrooms

In a communication earlier this week, I reinforced the flexibility of faculty to change a course’s delivery mode. As a result, a limited number of large classrooms have now become available, and faculty may choose to move their course to a larger room and further increase distancing.

If you are interested in doing so, please work with your department chair, through the standard process, to submit a Course Offering Change Form. If a larger room is available for your course, it will be assigned to you for the remainder of the semester.

Please note that it may not be possible to meet all requests, and that the department and/or faculty member is responsible for notifying students of the new classroom location.

Increasing physical distancing in classrooms 2 – modifying seating charts

I ask that faculty review seating charts for their courses and modify them to use available space to the fullest extent possible. You may find that while available seats near the front of the room are used, rows near the back of the room might be empty. In such cases, distributing students more evenly over the entire room would create more physical distancing, thus further mitigating transmission of COVID-19 and reducing the frequency of students having close contact. The figures below show an example of an actual (anonymized) seating chart for one course this semester, and how that seating chart can be quickly modified to promote additional physical distancing. Wherever practical, please update seating charts in your courses to fully utilize available classroom space. 


                   Original seating chair                                                                                             Redistributing seats to fully utilize available space

Keeping seating charts accurate

As changes are made to seating charts, please be sure to upload revisions to the Cybox folder created for you. Each version of the chart should include an effective date, and please do not delete the “old” seating charts. These actions will assist the university’s contact tracing team to accurately conduct their work and identify students who need to quarantine. Fillable PDF forms were made for all university classrooms and posted to this Cybox; using these to communicate your seating charts makes the work of the contact tracing team faster and more accurate.

FAQs on contact tracing, health protocols, and notifications to faculty

The Public Health and University Response teams have prepared an FAQ for faculty with information about contact tracing, isolation and quarantine protocols, and the communication and notification procedure to instructors and department chairs.

Thank you for your continued good work this semester, and for the feedback you have provided to improve instruction in the Division of Academic Affairs.