A Dry Run at a Socially Distanced Classroom

Anna McLoon and Sarah K. Berke:

To prepare for the upcoming fall semester, faculty members in the School of Science at Siena College tested three scenarios for a socially distanced classroom based on published guidelines from the New York State Governor’s Office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given our class sizes, we have had to plan for some students to take courses in person and a portion of the class to connect remotely. We took an empirical approach to: 1) evaluate how the classroom functions given recommended masking and six-foot spacing, 2) examine how easily in-person and remote students can interact, and 3) identify unforeseen logistical challenges.

We primarily did this for our own benefit, but the experience has proven highly valuable not only to us as participants but also to other colleagues at Siena. Thus, we’d like to share our impressions with the broader academic community.

Please note that we are not evaluating the safety of campus plans for fall 2020 — we have merely sought to discover the practical implications of the published guidelines upon our pedagogy. Indeed, many participants have significant concerns that even the current recommendations calling for reduced occupancy and masking might prove insufficient to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.