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Classroom-safety highlights

Roadrunners Safe Return committee shares how MSU Denver is keeping classroom settings safe and effective.

By Leone Dick, chief of staff to the vice president of Administration

September 23, 2020

Socially distanced layout for West Classroom 264With more than a quarter of the fall semester behind us, the Roadrunners Safe Return committee is highlighting two things it is doing to keep students, faculty and staff members safe in the classroom: using spaces more strategically and offering face shields to professors.

Strategic use of classroom space

The fall semester’s on-campus course list was kept small to prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty and staff. Only courses that required an in-person learning experience to achieve student learning objectives were returned to campus.

Once these limited courses were determined, Jonathan McCann, director of planning, design and construction, and his colleagues went to work. His team held interviews with each faculty member planning to offer an on-campus course and analyzed learning spaces to prioritize instruction and health.

A pertinent example was ITP 1600 – Herbal Medicine, an introductory course that welcomes students of all levels and majors who are interested in learning about medicinal herbs. To meet learning objectives, students prepare herbs using burner stations. Traditionally, the class has been held in West Classroom 264 and has a maximum enrollment of 30 students.

“In order to maintain 6 feet of social distancing in a 1,100-square-foot classroom, we estimated each person would need 75 square feet of space,” McCann said. “That meant we could theoretically fit 14 people in the classroom, if they sat in single-chair seating or tablet armchairs.” 

Since this was far fewer than the potential enrollment of 30, the team worked with the department to understand how the classroom would be used and came up with a plan to ensure a safe environment while also maximizing space. The team determined that the space needed to be customized beyond the original architectural layout. Moreover, it became necessary to split the class section into two with a portion of the class working in West Classroom 262 while the other portion of the class was utilizing burner stations in WC264. 

Karen Cape, Maternal Fetal Care Unit nurse at Children’s Hospital ColoradoBased on the layouts and custom needs, the team adjusted the furniture in both spaces, then remeasured to ensure that the appropriate and safe distances had been achieved.

Although this type of planning has taken a significant effort, students are reaping the rewards. Alycia Palmer, Ph.D., analytical-lab instructor in the Department of Chemistry, said her students’ comments have been positive.

“Students are telling me every day how glad they are to be back in the lab space to collect their own data. These bursts of excitement make the extra work on my part 100% worth it,” she said. “Students have also told me that some of the changes we made to curriculum are working well, and so I’m considering using the videos I created for future terms, too.”

Face shields for professors

Some faculty members have expressed concern with being able to provide instruction while wearing a mask. A face shield is an alternative that allows for improved voice projection and a full view of one’s facial expressions, all while being consistent with our campus policies.

MSU Denver plans to provide face shields, like the image shown, to any faculty member teaching an on-campus course. Procurement plans are in the works, with more details to follow.


Topics: Health, Safety

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