most recent CAMPus communication for fall 21 instruction

Here is the most recent campus guidance from campus health officers on the return to in person instruction.

August 27, 2021

Dear UC Santa Cruz Instructor Community,

Over the recent weeks, we have heard feedback from faculty, instructors, graduate students, staff, and deans, all passing along concerns about the risks of classroom teaching. We want to address this apprehension and provide some guidance.

The optimism felt by many in spring and early summer, brought on by the availability of COVID vaccines, has been replaced by unease as we face a surge in coronavirus cases caused by the highly contagious Delta variant. We acknowledge that this dynamic environment is frustrating and exhausting.

We understand the concerns of so many of you, particularly those with unvaccinated young children at home or immunocompromised family members, and recognize that we must adjust to the current situation. As we all individually and collectively adjust to life with the coronavirus and the risk it poses in our daily lives, we are committed to decision-making that is informed by science, focused on our mission, transparent, and honest.

Some may ask, given this environment, why should we return to a largely in-person community. The answer is to support the well-being of our students, while also taking extensive measures to mitigate the risks to our campus community, including faculty and staff.

A distanced learning environment worked well enough for some students, but the majority shared that the experience was isolating, frustrating, and depressing. Across the country, the mental health impacts have been documented. We want to be sure our students are able to successfully pursue their education in an environment where they can connect and share common experiences through a campus presence.

Vaccines are critical

We are taking a multi-prong approach to support the health and well-being of our campus community. That includes creating a campus community with a high rate of vaccination; requiring face coverings for indoor situations; and continuing our highly successful testing program to rapidly identify cases.

In addition to working with our own faculty, who have helped to guide our planning, we have remained in close contact with University of California health leaders, who are among the most respected in the world.

The COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be our best defense against the virus including the Delta variant. We have all seen that breakthrough cases do happen. However, data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently shows that the prevalence of a fully vaccinated person experiencing a breakthrough infection resulting in hospitalization or death is 0.0058 percent.

The Delta variant is the predominant coronavirus strain in our local community, and the majority of the cases arise from those who are not vaccinated. We cannot completely contain this virus. It is highly transmissible, with a short incubation period. As we have seen in college campuses nationwide, there will be infections on campus, and we must accept that. Our priority is to avoid significant spread with the goal of minimizing severe infections.

With the UC vaccine policy in place, our goal is to have at least 90 percent of our campus community vaccinated prior to the start of instruction. This will significantly reduce the virus’s prevalence on campus. This vaccination rate will be significantly higher than the rate in our surrounding community and the rest of California.

UC Santa Cruz is also requiring masks in classrooms and most other indoor situations, regardless of vaccination status. A high-quality face mask has proven to be another effective tool in reducing the virus’s spread. None of our health center staff, even those treating students with COVID, have contracted the virus in connection with patient care. N95 masks are available to all employees and offer even greater protection. Those requesting an N95 must complete the short N95 Voluntary Use training. For those who want an added layer of protection, we advise wearing a cloth mask over a N95/KN95.

Finally, the campus will continue to run its highly successful asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program. This regular testing will help identify cases and allow us to isolate and quarantine people as appropriate.

Looking ahead

Public health authorities tell us that the risk of being together for the sake of our students is manageable. They tell us that classrooms where everyone is masked are not places where transmission is likely to occur. If changes in the external environment or on campus dictate a change, we will react quickly. In the meantime, we can give our students the in-person experience they want and expect because we rose to the challenge of vaccinating our community and are complying with all of the mandates that our public health officials have advised.

Additional information for instructors, graduate students, and instructional staff will be provided in the next few days. Our asymptomatic testing approach will be communicated as well. There will never be zero risk from this or any other infectious disease; however, with the non-pharmaceutical interventions outlined above and our high vaccination rates, we know that we can move forward with these plans for in-person learning.

This pandemic has taught us all to be flexible and responsive to the changing conditions. As we start fall quarter, we will closely monitor what’s happening on campus and in our local community and take the appropriate steps to best ensure the health and well-being of our campus community.

Sincerely,

Gary and Liz

Gary Dunn, PhD

Interim AVC Student Health and Wellness

Elizabeth Miller, DO

Medical Director

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Here is the most recent guidance on Fall instruction from CP/EVC Lori Kletzer.

August 27, 2021

Dear Instructors,

With the fall quarter less than a month away, we have heard many questions and concerns about delivering in-person instruction in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the presence of the Delta variant. This message and a forthcoming webpage with frequently asked questions are intended to respond to many of the policy-related questions that have been raised to date.

Some have asked whether they can shift a class from in-person to remote instruction. Changes to the modality generally will not be allowed, except in certain situations (see FAQ 6 below). UC Santa Cruz is no longer subject to public health restrictions that required us to shift to remote instruction, and public health leaders have advised that classrooms, with appropriate mitigations such as face coverings, are not places where transmission is likely to occur.

We will be hosting a question and answer session for faculty and department staff at noon on Tuesday, August 31, to answer further questions in-person instructors may have after reading this guidance. You can register for this event online.

While today’s guidance concerns matters of immediate relevance to health and safety and to campus policy, we understand that instructors will have further pragmatic questions about how to navigate the return to in-person instruction. The instructional support team at CITL/Online Ed/FITC is developing answers to many of the frequently asked questions submitted by instructors, and this FAQ will be circulated early next week and will be posted online on the Keep Teaching website. The instructional continuity group will continue to update and expand the FAQ as we get closer to the start of instruction.

We recognize that this academic year will present new challenges as we again navigate the change that comes from transitioning back to in-person teaching and learning after more than a year in remote instruction.

The message sent today from Student Health Services provides a summary of our efforts to minimize the spread of the virus and reminds us of the tremendous impact the pandemic has had on all members of the campus community. We will continue to prioritize the community’s health and well-being and respond appropriately to changes in guidance from public health officials.

I deeply appreciate your patience, your commitment to our mission, and your partnership as we work together to provide a world-class education to our students.

Sincerely,

Lori Kletzer

Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor


Frequently Asked Questions

1. If a student in my in person class tests positive and is instructed to self-isolate by the student health center, will the rest of the class and I need to quarantine? Should we be tested? Should we all isolate until test results come back?

Students and Instructors in a class where someone has tested positive will be notified, likely by email. Per the campus guidance, students and instructors who were masked and vaccinated do not need to quarantine as long as they are not showing any symptoms.

People who are ~not~ vaccinated and attended class with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 must quarantine for 10 days.

Testing is recommended 3-5 days after exposure for those in a class where someone tests positive. Asymptomatic testing is available on campus. Symptomatic students should go to the Student Health Center to be tested. Symptomatic instructors/faculty should contact their health provider to find out where symptomatic testing is being offered.

Following CDC guidance, people who are fully vaccinated with no COVID-like symptoms do not need to quarantine or be restricted from work following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Any fully vaccinated person who experiences symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should isolate themselves from others for 10 days, be clinically evaluated for COVID-19, and tested for COVID-19 if recommended.

If you know the identity of the student because the student has contacted you directly, you should not communicate the student’s identity to the class or to anyone else. If you receive information about a positive student in class from those in charge of positive COVID test notifications, please note that you will not be given the identity of the student.

2. How will I be notified if a student in my in-person class tests positive?

When someone tests positive, the case investigation process begins. Anyone identified to be notified through this process will receive notice, including instructors of in-person classes, studios, and labs.

3. What happens if a student must self-isolate or quarantine and cannot attend an in-person class?

Instructors can temporarily accommodate students who are quarantining or self isolating by allowing them to attend class remotely for a few days, should the class material and the student’s health allow that (infographic on Temporary Blended Synchronous). If it is not possible to meet the learning goals through remote attendance of an in-person course, the instructor should consider other options to make it possible for the student to keep learning, including alternative assignments, office hours, or other measures as needed and as available. CITL and Online Education are available to consult at any time with instructors who need help with blended synchronous instruction or who are seeking advice about other ways students can keep learning. Further guidance on the topic of what to do when a student must isolate or quarantine from an in person class will be provided in the coming days from CITL/OE/FITC. This instructional FAQ will be consistently updated before and into the Fall quarter.

4. What happens if one of the course Teaching Assistants must self-isolate or quarantine and cannot attend an in-person class?

The Teaching Assistant, if their health allows, can attend class remotely using the same blended synchronous measures you would use to accommodate a student in the same situation. If the Teaching Assistant is scheduled to teach an in-person discussion section, that section should be held remotely until the Teaching Assistant is cleared by their medical provider. If the Teaching Assistant is scheduled to teach a lab section that must be held in-person, the instructor should work with the other Teaching Assistants to cover the lab, while remaining attentive to workload limits specified by collective bargaining agreements.

5. What should I do if I, as the instructor, test positive while teaching an in-person class, or if I need to quarantine because I have had close contact with someone (for instance, in my household) who has tested positive for COVID 19?

Self-isolate or quarantine following current CDC and campus guidelines and guidance from your medical provider. Notify your Department Chair or other Supervisor, per campus guidance. This is particularly important in the event of a positive COVID test taken off-campus, so that the campus contact tracing mechanism can be mobilized. If you feel well enough, transition the class to remote instruction. If not, work with your chair to identify an alternate instructor for the time that you are unable to teach. Notify the class promptly that you need to shift the class to remote format for quarantine/isolation (you do not need to specify which). If students ask whether they need to get tested, remind them that contact tracers will contact them if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. In the event of a positive COVID test, do not return to class until you have met the current guidelines for ending a period of isolation. Resume the daily COVID-19 symptom check when you return to on-campus teaching and work.

6. How can I, as the instructor, request an accommodation to transition my in-person class to a remote format due to an existing disability or medical condition?

If you have a disability or become disabled, you have the right to a reasonable accommodation needed to do your job. If you need an accommodation, contact your Department Chair, as well as the Academic Personnel Office (dggray@ucsc.edu) and the Disability Management Coordinator (roberts@ucsc.edu or 831-459-4602).

7. What are campus testing plans?

We are developing plans for testing of both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and employees and we anticipate communicating about these plans soon.

8. If I, as the instructor, experience cold or flu-like symptoms (regardless of my vaccination status), should I continue to teach in person?

No. You should complete the daily symptom check and transition the course to remote if you are well enough to teach. Consult your health provider to find out about how best to access symptomatic testing. Do not return to class until you are cleared by your medical provider.

9. Are cloth face coverings, N95 or KN95 masks available to instructors?

Yes. Masks and other supplies are available. Your department or program manager may have already requested them, so please check in with them first. Otherwise, requests can be made via: https://ehs.ucsc.edu/programs/safety-ih/covid-resources.html

10. Will the maximum class size for in-person instruction change?

Given our current environment and information, there are no plans to change the current guidance on class size for in-person instruction (classes of more than 150 students meet remotely).

11. Will the density of classroom occupancy change?

Not unless state and county guidelines change.

12. Can you share plans or information surrounding ventilation and filtration?

Our larger buildings have air handling units that bring in filtered air to the indoor spaces, while our smaller buildings often have windows that open. For buildings with operable windows, they can be left open, along with doors, for maximum air flow. Portable air purifiers may be used to move and filter air for smaller classrooms without operable windows through the campus COVID supplies program. Requests should be submitted by Department or building managers, rather than individual instructors.

13. Will any physical distancing in classrooms, labs, or studios be required?

Following CDC and CDPH guidance, there are no physical distancing requirements at this time.

14. Will students be allowed to eat and drink in class?

Students will not be allowed to eat or drink in class.

15. Who will communicate with students about expectations for in class behavior such as masking and no eating or drinking?

Campus-wide instructions regarding masking expectations will be widely disseminated and instructors should refer to them when discussing this topic. Instructors should further advise on in-classroom behavior in the same manner they would advise students about other classroom expectations; e.g., ground rules, attendance, disruption, etc. Including it on the syllabus, initial and ongoing notifications to students. The important thing is to provide students up-front notice of expectations in the classroom, so that we have a basis for taking subsequent action for noncompliance, if needed. Faculty may contact conduct@ucsc.edu for guidance related to classroom conduct and reporting.

16. What do I do if students tell me they don’t feel comfortable attending class in person?

Refer students to the appropriate campus resources depending on what you know about why they are not comfortable attending class. Below is a list of possible resources.

17. Will instructors be required to check student badges (the digital app that triangulates students’ vaccination status, testing requirements, and daily symptom check into a color coded system that clears students for physical presence on campus)?

No, instructors will not be required to check badges. To learn about the student badge system, please consult the detailed information on this page. Scroll down to Step 3 to see examples of the badges that will appear on students’ phones.

18. Will I, as the instructor, be allowed to check student badges?

Yes, you can check badges but please do so consistently to avoid allegations of bias, implicit bias, or profiling. For example, it is not recommended that you decide to check the badges of “random” students but rather, decide to check badges of all students or every other, every third, every fifth student, etc… . Please also keep in mind that badges indicate if a student is cleared to be on campus. If a student’s badge is not green, they should not be admitted to an in-person class. If the badge is yellow, they may simply need to fill out their daily symptom check, and you can encourage them to do so before entering the classroom. A yellow badge may also indicate that the student is overdue for COVID 19 testing.

If a student refuses to show their badge, please handle this incident as you would any in-classroom behavioral issue, and in the same manner you would advise students about other classroom expectations ( e.g., ground rules, attendance, disruption). If they still do not comply, you will need to choose whether you move forward with the class session or cancel it because of concerns for health and safety. Following the incident you are advised to reach out to Student Conduct for consultation on how to mitigate against future incidents of this nature and/or submit an incident report. Student Conduct can provide support on a myriad of interventions with the student ranging from informal resolution and restorative processes to adjudication related to disruptive or harmful behavior. To contact Student Conduct, email conduct@ucsc.edu.

19. Can I ask my students if they are vaccinated?

No.

20. If a student tells me they cannot attend an in-person class or exam because they have tested positive or are in quarantine how can I verify that?

You should be contacted if a student in your class needs to isolate/quarantine. If you have not received such notification, student badges will reflect their isolation/quarantine status. They could send a photo of their badge to the instructor. The badges are dated, so the student won’t be able to use a photo of an old badge. If a student discloses that they have tested positive or believe themselves to be positive but have reason to believe the university is unaware of this, they should contact the Student Health Center immediately.

21. What should I say to my TAs about their responsibilities to teach in-person?

TAs should have received advance notification through their appointment process whether they are required to be in-person to fulfill their responsibilities

22. What if I plan an in-person exam and some students need or prefer to take the exam remotely? Am I required to make that option available?

Students who need to take an exam remotely as a result of disability, illness or medical condition should go to the DRC to request an accommodation. Instructors are not required to provide a student, absent an approved accommodation, their preferred method for an exam.

23. Is it possible that some students will receive DRC accommodations to attend an in person class remotely?

Per DRC, this is not currently on the list of reasonable accommodations but each accommodation request is unique and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

24. What if there needs to be a full-on shift to remote instruction for health or other reasons?

In the event that courses must be temporarily shifted to remote instruction, instructors will be provided guidance on the shift.