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Planning for Spring 2021 Lab Instruction

Spring Lab 2021 Lab Planning Tool (DOCX). Please use this tool to submit your plans for spring 2021 lab instruction for review and approval.

Spring Lab Planning Workshop
October 16, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Resources from Fall Lab Planning Workshop

Please request to join the Canvas course. Contact Joan Hawsey if you have trouble accessing the course.

Lab Planning Core Team

These colleagues can be of support to you in their area of expertise:

  • Jill Sible, Undergraduate Education, Undergraduate Academic Affairs, 540-231-0372
  • Joan Hawsey, Administrative Support, Undergraduate Academic Affairs
  • Anne Brown, University Libraries
  • Gary Costello, Associate Registrar
  • Larry Cox, Instructional Designer, TLOS
  • Ellen Garcia, Biological Sciences, Graduate Academy of Teaching Excellence
  • Kevin Hamed, Assistant Professor, Fish and Wildlife Conservation
  • Kris Hite, Collegiate Faculty, Biochemistry
  • Bill Huckle, Associate Dean, Graduate School, Associate Professor, Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
  • Anna Kroner, Environmental Health and Safety
  • Matt Louvet, Coordinator of Online Services, TLOS
  • Steve Martin, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering
  • Travis Merritt, Collegiate Faculty, Physics
  • Keith Nunn, Academic Resource Management
  • Tom Staley, Laboratory Manager & Collegiate Associate Professor, Dept of Materials Science & Engineering
  • Anita Walz, University Libraries
  • Vickie Long, Chemistry

Consideration of Teaching Assistants' Rights and Responsibilities

Statement under development

FAQs for Fall 2020 Lab Courses

The requirements follow physical distancing guidelines for classrooms in general with some clarifications as they relate to teaching labs:

Teaching Lab Physical Distancing Requirements at Virginia Tech

  1. A 6 ft. nose-to-nose distance must be maintained between people at all times. This includes all lab instructional personnel. All Fall 2020 lab instructional plans submitted using the Fall Lab Planning Tool and approved by EHS are deemed to meet the standards articulated in this guidance.
  2. In labs where students work at opposing stations across a lab bench or next to each other, physical shielding may be installed that extends the full length of the bench or along the length between students and extends 12 inches above the height of the tallest person. Physical distance of 6 feet or more would be maintained in all directions not shielded.
  3. Face masks will be worn at all times. In working with some hazardous materials, (e.g., flammables or pathogens), a face shield may be required to be worn over the mask.
  4. Students should be assigned individual work stations that meet the distancing requirements and that they use for the duration of a lab session. This lab station may include a nearby fume hood or biosafety cabinet. If students must use a common piece of equipment during a lab session, 6 ft physical distancing and cleaning between users must be maintained.
  5. The cleaning protocols established for university research labs will apply to teaching labs. Please refer to the EHS COVID-19 FAQ page for details.

If you have any questions about whether you are meeting these guidelines, please email Jill Sible in Undergraduate Academic Affairs. All lab courses can be approved by submitting the Fall Lab Planning Tool (DOCX) to Jill Sible for review by EHS.

In the event of a true emergency (fire, chemical spill, medical emergency), the emergency should be handled even if physical distancing must be temporarily suspended.

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See Syllabus Statements Guidance (PDF) and Fall 2020 Classroom Conduct Guidance (PDF).

It is anticipated that faculty will not be expected to take students’ temperatures.

Some best practices to promote student compliance with COVID-19 - related expectations (wearing masks, staying 6 ft apart, cleaning) include:   

  • setting expectations and consequences early and often both in the syllabus and during lab meetings
  • sharing the research that supports the social distancing regulations
  • aligning COVID-19-related expectations (6 ft apart, wearing masks) with other safety protocols that are already part of your lab course
  • reminding students that in-person learning opportunities are contingent upon good compliance with the safety regulations

NO - Students and all others must wear a mask and maintain 6 ft physical distancing except for transient (passing by) interactions.

YES - masks must still be worn unless the individual has a documented accommodation that exempts them.

The university is planning a ‘regular’ in-person experience for the Spring 2021 semester. However, this plan may well change depending on public health conditions as well as state and federal regulations.

Please email Zack Adams in Environmental Health and Safety with questions about air quality and circulation in teaching labs.

Distribution of PPE and cleaning supplies will be handled centrally. See the June 29 Daily News Article. The article indicates no charge to departments for orders of reasonable amounts. Please work with your department to procure these supplies for your lab courses and if you encounter any issues, email Jill Sible and we will work on a resolution.

All departments requesting PPE are required to pick up their orders from the Virginia Tech Surplus Warehouse, located at 1425 South Main Street in Blacksburg.

Departments should complete an Internal Service Form (ISR) in HokieMart to request any needed PPE. Orders that have been received and fully approved prior to 2 p.m. will be available for pickup the following business day. Pickup hours are 8:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.

The direct pickup requirement will remain in place through at least Aug. 3. At that time, Surplus Property staff may offer the option of direct deliveries to departments that are adequately staffed and can be available to receive the PPE orders.

The following products are available:

  • 3-ply disposable surgical masks with ear loops – in packages of 50 masks
  • 100 percent cotton, machine-washable cloth masks – in packages of 5 masks
  • Nitrile gloves (Sizes S, M, L, and XL) – in boxes of 100 gloves
  • Latex gloves (Sizes S, M, L, and XL) – in boxes of 100 gloves
  • Hand sanitizer individual bottles (Sizes S, M or L) – each
  • Disinfectant spray bottles – each (*please note, due to a national shortage, no disinfectant wipes are available)
  • No-touch monitoring thermometers – each (one thermometer may be utilized for entire units)
  • Face Shields (disposable) with elastic head band – in packages of 10 shields

Instructions for processing the ISR in HokieMart. A pricelist of the products will be located within the instructions, and all ISRs should be completed with appropriate unit pricing.

However, in concert with the university’s return to operations planning, PPE distribution to departments will be recovered using university central funds; invoices will show no charge to individual departments. Over-ordering, or disproportionate requests for PPE will be invoiced to individual departments at product cost with no markup.

If your department has not yet completed the PPE/Critical Supplies Planning Survey, please do so to help Procurement better anticipate ongoing campus needs.

The centralized distribution model for PPE will continue until the supply chain can support departmental direct purchasing. Virginia Tech Procurement will continue to share updates as more information becomes available.

Students should not be required to provide their own transportation to participate in a lab off campus. Owning a car is NOT a university requirement. However, students may choose to drive themselves to the field site.

University vehicles may be used to transport students if the following guidelines below are adhered to. Note: the capacity of multi-passenger vans will be greatly reduced under these guidelines. 

Alternatives to bringing all of the students to an off-campus field site for a laboratory include: devising experiences on campus, “bringing students” along to interesting field sites (e.g. your research sites) using live streaming or video capture.

Pandemic vehicle occupancy and disinfection requirements

The following guidelines are recommended to minimize the potential for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 while traveling with a group.

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces inside and outside the vehicle.  

High touch surfaces include: exterior and interior door handles and grips, interior door and window controls, arm rests, safety belts, cup holders, glove/storage compartment latches, air vents, gear shift, center console (climate/audio controls), steering wheel, visors, rear view mirror.

Surfaces will be cleaned before and after use and when occupants change position.

Each traveler is assigned a specific seat, Maintaining the same driver and passenger seat assignments will decrease the need for cleaning.

Alternate seating positions to maximize physical distance between vehicle occupants with a maximum of one person per row - for instance, a four-door vehicle with two rows of seating (sedan or five to six passenger SUV) can have one driver and one passenger.

Recommended seating for a 15 passenger van 

One person per seat and alternating sides.

All occupants in the vehicle must wear a face mask/cloth face covering at all times while in the vehicle

Maximize the movement of air within the passenger compartment of the vehicle using a combination of the vehicle's climate control system and windows, so that each passenger is in the vehicle is supplied with fresh, un-recirculated air.

Researchers participating in field work should be assigned to a specific travel group and remain in that travel group for the duration of the work season/semester, to minimize potential transmission to others participating in the same field research project.

When fueling the vehicle wear disposable gloves to minimize contact with high touch surfaces. Use pay at the pump options if available.