Getting Ready for Fall Classes

Friday, August 13, 2021

Students in classroomAfter a long year I’m looking forward to returning to the classroom and teaching students in my FYO seminar. While the increasing COVID-19 numbers are making several of us apprehensive, I know that many of you are just as eager as I to get back into the classroom and interact with our students. In the last two weeks I’ve been fortunate to talk with several faculty groups and have heard  concerns and answered questions that have come up as everyone prepares for the first day of class.

We know that vaccines and masks are highly effective at keeping individuals and our community safe and in slowing the spread of this disease. I took my vaccine as soon as I was eligible, and I encourage you to get vaccinated as well. I will also be wearing my mask when I teach, and I encourage all faculty and students to do the same. If you haven’t already done so, I strongly encourage you to get your vaccine and wear masks when you are indoors with other people.

The Office of Instruction has posted here updated language that you may want to include in your Fall 2021 course syllabi. Please make your expectations crystal clear on your syllabi, upload them to the syllabus system before the first day of class, and open your eLC pages today if you haven’t already done so.

What follows are the things you need to know concerning vaccination status, face coverings, attendance policy, isolation, and quarantine. This information is also available on our Teaching and Learning Continuity website.

Pursuant to state and University System of Georgia (USG) rules, we cannot ask our students or fellow employees for proof of their vaccination status, and we should not treat vaccinated and un-vaccinated individuals differently unless dictated by law or applicable guidance.
Students should not be segregated in a classroom or from other instructor-student interactions (e.g., office hours, group work, field trips, labs, etc.) based on their vaccination status. However, students may be required by off-campus partnering organizations to wear masks and/or be vaccinated as a condition of participation in experiential learning opportunities such as study abroad programs, externships and delivery of medical services.

Face coverings are recommended for all individuals, whether vaccinated or not, while inside campus facilities. Faculty may encourage, but not require, students to wear face coverings to help limit the spread of COVID-19 amongst fellow students, faculty, staff and the local community. Students should not be segregated in a classroom or from other instructor-student interactions (e.g., office hours, group work, field trips, labs, etc.) based on face coverings.  While instructors will be informed about positive COVID-19 incidence in their classes through DawgCheck, students in the same classroom may not be made aware of any potential close contact except through contact tracing (which will be completed by the Department of Public Health). Use of face coverings will help ensure students’ own health and safety.

The UGA class attendance policy has not changed. Instructors still have the flexibility to adapt and enforce an attendance policy that best suits their classes. It is strongly encouraged that instructors clearly describe their attendance policy on their syllabus to make students aware of the classroom expectations as early as possible.  UGA is a residential campus where classroom attendance always has been an important part of the educational experience.

Instructors should accommodate students who need to quarantine/isolate due to COVID-19 as they normally would have accommodated ill students before the pandemic. While classes will no longer follow hybrid or HyFlex instruction, many classrooms now have the technology necessary to record and broadcast lectures. Faculty may use these, as appropriate, to assist students who may need to be in quarantine/isolation. Other options such as asking for note takers, providing a recorded session of the class, offering make-up sessions, and others, can also be used to help students who are unable to attend class due to COVID-19. These accommodations are to be provided to students with COVID-19, DRC recommended accommodations, or other circumstances that may require a student to occasionally miss a class. For all other students, classes must continue to be offered in a face-to-face format.

Notification about possible exposure to COVID-19. Instructors of record will be notified by Student Care and Outreach when a student in their class reports a COVID-19 positive test. However, instructors should not notify a class whenever a student in their class tests positive for COVID-19. The University has vested the deans or their designees with the authority to determine on a case-by-case basis, (1) when a positive test should be disclosed to students or employees, either on an anonymous basis or under the health or safety emergency exception to FERPA,  and (2) the “appropriate parties” with whom such information should be shared as necessary to protect their health and safety.

Instructors will not be automatically notified when a student is recommended to be in quarantine. If instructors need confirmation that a student has reported their exposure in DawgCheck and need to quarantine, they should direct the student to email Student Care and Outreach (sco@uga.edu) with a request for assistance with notifying their instructors.

Student Care and Outreach will coordinate care and support for students who must isolate or quarantine due to exposure or symptoms related to COVID-19. Student Care and Outreach will continue to notify faculty should students report a positive COVID-19 test result through DawgCheck. If you are concerned about any student in your class, please reach out to the Student Care and Outreach team at: sco@uga.edu.

COVID-19 Student Educational and Response Team (CO-SERT). The COVID-19 Student Educational and Response Team (CO-SERT) is a temporary collaborative team at UGA, charged and led by Student Affairs, to provide a central point of contact, review, and response or referral on identified questions and concerns involving students and COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. Questions and concerns from faculty, staff, and community members related to students and COVID-19 health and safety guidelines may be submitted to askstudentaffairs@uga.edu. For more information, see https://faculty.studentaffairs.uga.edu/content_page/COSERT.

Classroom Management. As the semester begins, instructors should remind students that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should record the positive test in DawgCheck (http://dawgcheck.uga.edu) and let the students know that Student Care and Outreach will be in contact with them to support them and provide guidance on isolation.

In no event should faculty disclose the identity of a student who has tested positive or developed symptoms. However, public health officials strongly encourage individuals who test positive to notify other persons with whom they have had close contact. In many cases, this is the most effective way to notify those who have been exposed. As timing of notifications may differ based on the testing agency, it is possible that a student may receive notification during a class and disclose this information publicly to faculty and/or students.

If a student receives notification of a positive COVID-19 test result during a class period (e.g., via email or a text message), the student should leave the classroom and record the positive test in DawgCheck (http://dawgcheck.uga.edu). If the instructor believes that the test result notification to the student has created a significant distraction, the instructor may decide to dismiss the class for the remainder of the class period.

 

The key take-aways for your classes are:

  1. Faculty and staff may not ask about a student’s vaccination status nor require them to wear a mask inside a UGA facility, and all students, regardless of their vaccination status, must be treated equally.
  2. Faculty may not decide to change the instructional format of their course from what is listed in Athena without prior approval.
  3. Faculty, as always, control their course content, pedagogy, assessment, and attendance policies.
  4. Student Care and Outreach will coordinate care and support for students who must isolate or quarantine because of COVID.

Please remember this guidance is subject to change based on recommendations from the Georgia Department of Public Health, the University System of Georgia, or the Governor’s Office. You will find the most recent UGA policies at coronavirus.uga.edu.

As you continue to get ready for the first day of class, don’t hesitate to send your questions, comments, and thoughts to us by sending an email to: ovpi@uga.edu. Be well and remember, when we work together, we are all Georgia Strong, Bulldawg Strong.

Sincerely,
Rahul Shrivastav
VP for Instruction