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COVID-19 Classroom Guidance for Faculty

The Office of the Provost has outlined expectations and guidance for faculty on face-to-face classroom instruction. For additional campus guidance, visit utk.edu/coronavirus.


Classrooms and Teaching Considerations

To provide students with the rich learning environments, research opportunities, and sense of community and connection that are foundational to their academic success and well-being, we will continue fully in-person instruction for spring semester 2022.

  • All changes to modality for any reason must be approved by college deans.
  • All in-person classes will be delivered in full-capacity classrooms.
  • Instructors may choose to hold some office hours by Zoom, but they should seek to accommodate students who ask to meet in-person.

Helping Students Stay on Track

Instructors are encouraged to record their class meetings so that in-class activity can be viewed later by students who need to be absent, but instructors are not required to live-stream their courses.

Teaching and Learning Innovation has compiled tips, resources, and practices to help students stay on track if they need to miss class due to illness.

View tips and resources from Teaching and Learning Innovation on helping students stay on track.

View more resources  from Teaching and Learning Innovation on COVID-19 teaching support.

COVID-Related Work Modifications

Any employee who has an underlying medical diagnosis or extenuating circumstances can contact the Office of Equity and Diversity to discuss COVID-related work modifications.

OED’s role in COVID-related requests is to receive medical documentation, attest to its validity, verify whether the condition is among the vulnerable classes, and provide guidance to the employee and department.

After receiving guidance from OED, the department head should consult with the college dean to determine reasonable COVID-related work modifications.

OED cannot require others to change their behavior, including wearing masks, as a COVID-related work modification due to an employee’s circumstances.

Temporary Teaching Arrangements Due to Illness

Instructors can make temporary teaching arrangements if they are sick, need to isolate or quarantine, or care for family members. As they would in any situation where they need to miss class, instructors should notify their department head or dean and clearly communicate to students that the change is temporary. The university recommends that employees and students stay home anytime they do not feel well.


Mask Guidelines

CDC guidance recognizes the changing dynamics of living in a world with COVID-19. It rates COVID-19 community levels as low, medium, and high, with recommendations at each level about the use of masks and other precautions.

Wearing a mask is always an option for any individual who chooses to do so, and the CDC recommends that those with high risk of severe illness talk with their health care providers.

For the most current information on masks, please check the COVID-19 website at utk.edu/coronavirus.

Process for Requesting KN95s (individual requests only)

UT has a supply of KN95s available for distribution to campus community members who choose to voluntarily use a filtering facepiece respirator (KN95) for additional protection where respiratory protection is not required by regulatory requirements.

  • Campus community members who want KN95 masks must submit their own individual request to maintain compliance with safety regulatory requirements. Department requests cannot be processed/fulfilled for KN95s.
  • Complete the web form to request KN95s, and KN95s will be delivered to the on-campus address you designate.
  • KN95s are for voluntary use only and shall not be used as a substitute where respiratory protection is required.

Bulk Cloth and Surgical Masks Requests (department/unit requests)

  • Business managers can order cloth and surgical masks for their department using the PPE request form. The campus will distribute reusable cloth masks to students at the beginning of the semester.

Student Attendance

  • Students are advised to not attend class in-person if they are sick or need to isolate or quarantine. View guidance on quarantine and isolation. The university recommends that students and employees stay home anytime they do not feel well.
  • Instructors may remind students to monitor their health closely and not come to class if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or any illness.
  • All members of the campus community, regardless of vaccination status or prior recovery from COVID-19, should monitor their health daily for symptoms.
  • Faculty are expected to be clear about their attendance policies and are encouraged to work with students to help them make up any work they might have missed. UT Teaching and Learning Innovation has provided sample syllabus language.
  • If a student tests positive and notifies the instructor, the instructor should direct the student to complete the COVID support form if they have not done so already. No other action needs to be taken by the instructor.

Student Absence Notification Process

Overview

While the university cannot give instructors specific information about a student’s medical status, the Division of Student Success will contact instructors if a student needs to be out of class for an extended period.

  • Email notification from Student Success is initiated by a workflow that starts with the student filling out the COVID support form and a case review by the COVID support team.
  • The email notification does not confirm a COVID positive case and is strictly for the instructor’s awareness that a student has a legitimate need to be absent. Students do not need to provide additional documentation beyond the notification.
  • Instructors can help reduce the spread of infectious disease by requiring that their students fill out the COVID support form in order to be granted an excused absence from class for medical reasons related to COVID-19. Instructors can also accept other forms of documentation to excuse COVID-related absences; however, this will mean the student won’t have an active case with the support team and is not included in the campus data.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to contact their instructors should they need to miss class for any reason. The notification from the Division of Student Success does not relieve students of this responsibility.
  • Instructors that need clarification about a specific student can contact covidsupport@utk.edu.

How does the notification process work?

  1. A student completes the COVID support form.
  2. The COVID Support Team reviews the form to determine what, if any, actions should be recommended.
  3. The COVID Support Team continues to gather information to ensure recommendations remain accurate and provides support during case management.
  4. The Division of Student Success distributes absence notifications to instructors based on a routinely delivered report from the COVID Support Team’s case management system that includes all students with active forms.
  5. When a student can safely return to campus activity, their active form is closed and not included on the report provided to the Division of Student Success.

Why do notifications not include a more precise anticipated return-to-class date?

Anticipated return timelines are general for two reasons.

  • The student’s circumstances – and the related recommendations from COVID support – can change, which affects a return date.
  • A general return date helps protect student privacy.

Why might an instructor not receive a notification about a student when they claim they have submitted a COVID support form? 

  • Student’s circumstances and isolation/quarantine timelines frequently differ. This can potentially result in a form only being active for a few days rather than 7-14 days.
  • The information provided upon form submission is used to make initial recommendations. However, new information can often change the duration of isolation/quarantine significantly.
  • If a form is submitted without enough information and the student does not cooperate with the COVID Support Team in a timely manner, then the active form is closed. Closed forms are not included on the notification distribution list.

Should a student complete a COVID support form retroactively if they have completed isolation or quarantine?

No. The COVID support form and the COVID support program are designed to be used when a student is currently facing a COVID-19 circumstance.

Who should instructors contact for clarification about a specific student or circumstance? Who should instructors direct students to contact? 

  • If an instructor needs clarification about whether a student has legitimate reason for missing class associated with a COVID-19 circumstance, they should contact covidsupport@utk.edu. Instructor inquires will always be handled by COVID Support Coordinating Staff.
  • Student questions can also be directed to covidsupport@utk.edu. If they need to report a COVID-19 circumstance, they should complete a form at covidform.utk.edu.

Research


Travel

All members of the UT community are able to travel internationally; however, they must follow the exception process currently in place. If you are traveling to a country that is listed by the State Department or the CDC as a level 3 or 4 country, please complete the travel exception form for faculty and staff.

The Center for Global Engagement encourages all travelers to be fully vaccinated before traveling and to get a vaccine booster when appropriate. Please be sure to register all international travel prior to departure.


Safety and Wellness

  • The campus COVID support team’s role is to check on the situation of a student or employee who has (or may have been exposed to) COVID-19, help connect them to supportive resources, provide guidance, and help contact others who may need to take precaution. Anyone who submits a COVID support form is contacted by the support team—generally within 24 hours, but the response time can vary depending on case load.
  • Resources such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 855-437-3486, here4tn.com, and the 865-946-CARE (2273) hotline for distressed faculty and staff are available for all employees. Employees with health and safety concerns should consult their supervisors or departmental leadership.