8.24.21: Classrooms, Technology and COVID Mitigation

A message sent to faculty

Dear Colleagues,

I am excited to see our campus come alive with the kind of activity I have not experienced in the almost 14 months since I arrived at Lehigh. Thank you for the dedication and care that you have shown as we work our way to this new semester. I know that there are still challenges ahead and that the current Delta variant outbreak is cause for concern. That said, I believe that we are well prepared for the semester, largely because of the high level of vaccination across campus and because of what we have learned over the last 18 months of this pandemic.

Many faculty, students and families are excited about our return to almost universal in-person instruction, but, given current circumstances, this has produced some concerns. Generally and at Lehigh, classroom environments were not seen as places of transmission. Last year we had no known examples of COVID transmission in Lehigh classrooms, and similar observations were made at institutions across the country, including at universities where almost all classes were in person. This fall we have increased classroom density, but with >95% of Lehigh students fully vaccinated and masks being required in all classrooms, we expect that the likelihood of transmission in the classroom should be comparable to last year. As with many aspects of this semester, we will be watching our case data for evidence of classroom transmission and will adjust our approach if we see evidence of problems emerging.

We have received a number of questions related to in-person instruction and COVID mitigation. I provide some answers below. If you have additional questions, please email incovid@lehigh.edu.

Classrooms

  • At this point in the semester, the Registrar's Office has very limited flexibility when it comes to classroom changes, especially during prime instructional times; however, if you have a significant concern about your classroom (e.g., not enough seats for the number of students), email Carol Bene in the Registrar's office at cbe205@lehigh.edu. Be sure to include your course number/section, your concerns about your current room, and a brief description of the type of room you are requesting.
  • All classrooms continue to be cleaned daily; sanitizer and towels are provided in baskets in every room. Filters for our ventilation systems are being replaced on a regular schedule, and local units have their filters cleaned as part of their regular maintenance. In addition, the running time of ventilation systems is being extended to ensure more air changes before and after classes. For any additional COVID-related questions regarding the physical condition of your classroom, please email incovmod@lehigh.edu.
  • In most cases, physical barriers have been removed. This is due to recent analyses that suggest that such barriers likely help little and may actually increase risk because of the ways that they alter airflow. However, if you have questions about such barriers, please email incovmod@lehigh.edu.
  • For any non-COVID-related building issues, faculty should submit a work order via the facilities website or by calling the office at 610-758-3940.


Technology

  • All classroom technology has been tested and should be fully operational; however, if you find that your classroom technology is not functioning or is not suitable for your instructional plans, you can submit a request to LTS indicating your course number/section and what help you need. LTS will either repair the technology, add it to the room if possible, or work with the Registar to see if a more suitable room is available.
  • If you have an immediate need for technical assistance during a class meeting, call the LTS Help Desk at 8-HELP or helpdesk@lehigh.edu. (Be sure to let them know if you want to be interrupted or if you are just informing them of the problem.)
  • You can find information about the technology in your classroom at https://ltsfacilities.lehigh.edu; general advice in the "Using Classroom Technology" section of the LTS Knowledge Base; and additional guidance in the CITL's Preparing to Teach in Fall 2021.


Health & Safety

  • As a reminder, Lehigh policy requires all faculty, staff, students and visitors to wear masks in all indoor public and common spaces. This includes all classrooms. The mask policy permits temporarily lowering of masks to take a sip of a drink. In alignment with CDC guidance for higher education, Lehigh is not requiring social distancing in classrooms.
  • If you have not already completed it, the deadline to register your vaccination status is now August 30. Please see the personalized link to a Docusign form you received via email to provide this information.
  • If you have concerns about possible COVID exposure or if you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms, please contact Lehigh’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager at 610-861-8080 ext. 23504 or Christine.Wolfe@lvhn.org.
  • If you are symptomatic and awaiting a test result, you should temporarily shift your course to online until you have a confirmed negative result. Do not come to campus.
  • If you are unvaccinated and are identified as a close contact required to quarantine, do not come to campus until you have been cleared to return. Instead, contact Lehigh’s Employee Health Nurse Case Manager at 610-861-8080 ext. 23504 or Christine.Wolfe@lvhn.org. Please note that a negative test result does not remove a person who is identified as an unvaccinated close contact from quarantine.

More information about these and related topics can be found in the Guidance for Staff and Faculty section of Lehigh's Covid-19 Information Center.

Once again, thank you for your continued efforts to ensure a high-quality academic experience for our students. While COVID has not left us, we are doing everything we can to ensure a safe and successful fall semester for all. I am also aware that, as we begin this new semester, many of you are still managing COVID-related challenges in other areas of your lives. Please continue to care for yourselves and each other.

Nathan Urban
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs