Recommendation to ensure classroom safety re: In-Person Course Delivery, Fall 2020


The ICS Advanced Planning Unit was tasked with developing plans to help ensure safe working in all on-site teaching spaces (classrooms and experiential spaces) used when the university reopens with a hybrid learning model in the Fall. As mentioned in the work of the Criteria Working Group, and in alignment with Western’s values as consistently expressed by the University through the pandemic, safety of students, staff, and faculty is a vital consideration. Therefore, any classes that cannot be offered safely in person in the pandemic environment should not be. There is an obvious space constraint, but the necessity of cleaning and disinfecting spaces and allowing for traffic flows may place further constraints on the type and number of classes that can be offered in person. The aim of this group is to explore these issues.


  • Validate estimated capacity for all teaching spaces defined to ensure physical distancing requirements are met
  • Identify the cleaning and disinfecting turnaround time for classrooms and labs
  • Identify logistics involved in converting a room for physical distancing, as well as the surrounding areas
  • Determine the best traffic flow (ingress and egress) for each classroom or lab


  • All GUC and departmental classrooms
  • All instruction labs
  • Experiential spaces such as arts and music

Out of scope:

  • Research labs. David Patrick and Sue Sullivan are leading this work, although we are closely coordinating our efforts.
  • Computer labs. The model developed as part of the spring transition to online teaching. ATUS will work to ensure the remaining computer labs follow a similar approach.

This report covers two urgent needs to help to understand classroom capacity when planning fall courses, with the overarching aim of ensuring that students are making informed decisions when registering for courses:

  • Estimated capacity for each classroom and experiential space that takes into account physical distancing
  • Estimated turnaround time for cleaning and disinfecting of classroom and experiential spaces

In the near future, the group will look at the best traffic flows for each classroom or lab and the logistics involved in converting a room and the surrounding areas to create teaching spaces that respect physical distancing guidelines. This work would include furniture styles, storage, and signage.

The working group include representative members from relevant operational groups:

  • Andrew Wilken, Maintenance Specialist, Facilities Management
  • Anna Carlson, Management Analyst, Facilities Management
  • Anne Gilbert, Strategic Planning Director, BFA
  • Brian Burton, Associate VP for Academic Affairs
  • Chris Brueske, Assistant Director, Facilities Management
  • Darin Rasmussen, Director, Public Safety
  • Ellen Kuhlmann, Space Analyst, Academic Affairs
  • Forest Payne, Project Manager/Architect, FDCB
  • Troy Ragsdale, Space Analyst, Registrar’s Office
  • Wayne Galloway, Manager, Custodial Operations

Additional input was received from Paul Mueller, Director, Risk and Compliance and Gary Malick, Manager, Academic Technology

Classroom capacity

The team addressed three types of teaching areas:

  • All GUC and departmental classrooms
  • All instruction labs
  • Experiential spaces such as arts and music

GUC and departmental classrooms

Estimated maximum capacity for GUC and departmental classrooms was confirmed by the team and is included as Appendix A (see attached Excel file for appendices A-D). The average capacity for lecture halls is 18.5% with the largest lecture hall holding no more than 65 students. For spaces with fixed seating, the estimated space was physically measured out for each space and generally involved skipping every other row and ensuring seats were six feet apart. For spaces with moveable chairs, the estimates were based on a simple calculation of x number of seats per square foot. This means that rooms with moveable chairs generally have a much higher percentage of normal capacity under distancing than those with fixed seating.

Space Administration continues to work with departments to estimate the maximum capacity for departmental classrooms. Rough estimates indicate that the larger rooms will accommodate 20 students, whereas the smaller classrooms could only accommodate as few as three or four students.

Instruction labs

The team developed the estimated capacity of lab space (Appendix B) to ensure that all lab rooms met physical distancing guidelines and allowed for circulation around the classroom. The estimates provided are suitable for the purposes of scheduling classes and range from a 25% to a 75% capacity, depending on the size and shape of the room, as well as the layout of the furniture. However, lab equipment in specific rooms may lower the room capacity. This means that each department will need to look at its own lab space to determine the maximum capacity. Once the Provost communicates the general direction regarding fall classes, departments will determine which spaces they intend to use and Space Administration will contact them to see if they need any support from FDCB for space planning or FM for site alterations. It will be important to involve the Lab Techs in the discussions and final decisions. Depending on the proximity of students within the labs, ideas such as face shields and desk partitions are being considered as safety measures.

Experiential spaces

The team’s work on identifying the maximum capacity for experiential spaces continues due to the uniqueness of these spaces. Included in this report as Appendix C is a list of all the experiential spaces on campus and, as Appendix D, which spaces are likely to be used in the fall quarter.

It is possible that many activities that would normally happen in an experiential space would not be possible because of physical distancing requirements. However, there are many activities, e.g. single music labs, that are feasible during these circumstances. In our discussions with the departments, it appears that all departments might have some type of offering in an experiential space. For example, although the majority of the Math instruction looks like it will be online, individual instruction in computer labs is planned.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Facilities Management cleans all spaces every day in the early morning; the question covered was what appropriate level of disinfecting would be required. Facilities Management indicates that they can support any number of classrooms, labs, or experiential spaces the University would like to use. To do so requires staffing up with temporary or student employees to the required level. There are two types of spaces involved: teaching space and public space.

Facilities Management estimates that they can clean teaching spaces (50 classrooms, labs and experiential spaces) to the degree that a space can be used five times per regular teaching day at a cost of approximately $7,750 per week. This estimate is based on the following scenario, assuming a one-hour class time:

  • Half of the teaching spaces would be disinfected and ready for use at 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM, Noon, 2:00 PM, and 4:00 PM.
  • The other half of them would be disinfected and ready for use at 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 3:00 PM, and 5:00 PM.

The estimate is based on an approximate cost of $155 per space per week. This is to just disinfect the surfaces and not the materials used. Student/instructors would be responsible for cleaning materials used or have extra materials at hand.

In addition to disinfection of the classrooms, labs, and experiential spaces, if Facilities Management continues the twice-daily disinfection of public spaces in all 30 Academic buildings (similar to our current level of “Orange Squad” service), the cost per week is approximately $10,000.

The spreadsheet on page 5 displays the cost model. However, this will vary widely based on how many labs, classrooms, and experiential spaces are used. It is more accurate to use the estimate per space per week outlined above.

When there is a more accurate count of spaces that will be used, there will likely be greater efficiencies and a lower cost. We also suggest restricting access to rooms that are not in use and locking GUCs not in use. This means these areas do not have to be cleaned and they also could be used for storage.

These cost estimates do not include additional costs for teaching labs. Equipment used during a class would need to be cleaned by students and faculty and the Lab Tech would need to make sure that all equipment is disinfected. Another option would be to have extra equipment available.

Field Courses

Although not strictly in the scope of this work, we are including a draft protocol for safe operation of field courses developed by Paul Mueller. We believe this protocol is important to distribute to those departments that run such courses. The report can be found as Appendix E.


There is much in this project that is dependent on the work of the Criteria Working Group and the group considering the first-year experience. It is likely that some of the decisions made in one group might have to be considered in view of the space availability and safety information presented in this report. Although, as mentioned at the onset, there is more work to be done, the information provided herein should help the University make informed decisions about the usage of teaching spaces in fall 2020.


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