Health Protocols for Classrooms, Labs, and Office Spaces, and Accommodations for Students

July 21, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

The Provost’s Office is working with our operations staff to ensure a healthy return to campus in the fall. Vaccination is the lynchpin of our strategy for a safe return, and the university is creating tracking systems to ensure that all members of our community are in compliance with the vaccine policy.

Because of the minor chance of breakthrough cases and asymptomatic transmission of the virus, faculty, students, and staff are required to take a monthly COVID test in order to gain, and maintain, campus access. To ensure you can be tested quickly in a manner that fits your schedule, you will be able to reserve a test time slot in advance. The fall testing center schedule will be posted later this summer. Test results are usually available within 24 to 48 hours.

As soon as you have been deemed compliant (through approved vaccination documentation and taking your first COVID test), you will be given access to your office. You will have access to general purpose classrooms on the Foggy Bottom campus by the end of this week. If you have any problems accessing a building or classroom, please contact the GWorld Office. When classes start, we expect that masks will continue to be optional for the fully vaccinated, and social distancing will not be required.

Below is additional information about what we expect for the fall semester, what we may do should there be an uptick in positive cases, and what we expect in terms of student accommodations.

Open (Normal Operations):

  • Vaccination is our major form of protection. Schools, the Division for Student Affairs, and Human Resources are tracking and enforcing vaccine compliance.
  • Vaccinated individuals will take monthly COVID tests.
  • Only a very small percentage (1 to 2 percent) of students, faculty, and staff will be granted vaccine exemptions. These individuals will be required to wear masks, will be COVID tested weekly, and will participate in daily symptom monitoring.
  • Faculty are not expected to police compliance with our vaccine policy in classrooms. Please do not ask students (or staff) if they are vaccinated, and do not ask students to wear masks in your classroom. We expect our students to adhere to university and District policies, guidelines, and directives or may face consequences for not abiding by the Code of Student Conduct. 
  • If you feel vulnerable in the classroom, please feel free to wear masks and/or face shields to protect yourselves. The Center for Disease Control recommends masks with two or more layers of fabric.

Open With Precautions (Modified Operations Based on Situation):

Should there be an uptick in positive COVID cases in the community, a variety of responses is possible. The provost, in consultation with the deans, will enact the most appropriate measures for the situation. These measures could include:

  • Masking, increased testing, and/or symptom monitoring;
  • Social distancing (three feet or six feet) separate from, or in combination with, masking, testing, and symptom monitoring;
  • Remote instruction for some, or all, courses.

Please work with your chair and dean’s office to determine whether your classrooms can accommodate social distancing, or if a social distancing mandate would require you move to remote instruction.

Accommodations for Students Who Miss Class with Cause:

We should expect that there will be an increased number of students who miss class for two weeks at a time due to arrival delays, testing positive for COVID, quarantine, etc. It is important that faculty have plans in place, developed in consultation with department chairs and deans, to serve those students. Many deans have already worked with their faculties to develop accommodations with students. Please make sure you are aware of the expectations of your school and that you have plans in place to provide suitable accommodations for students.

  • Technology has been installed in all classrooms that will allow you to record your lectures.
  • GW Informational Technology will provide opportunities to learn this technology before the start of classes. Find out what technology is available in your classroom, review set-up guides, or sign up for a training session by visiting this page.
  • The Instructional Core, a division of Libraries and Academic Innovation, will provide training on how to use Blackboard to retrieve and distribute recorded lectures, either to the entire class or to individuals. Faculty can request individual consultations by emailing [email protected].

As always, we expect faculty to provide academic accommodations for students who have legitimate reasons to miss class.

We realize that many of you are not required to be back on campus until the start of classes, but we strongly encourage you to come to campus before then, to check your classrooms. You need to see how the seats in your classrooms are arranged in order to work with your department chairs and deans on your teaching plans, should we require social distancing at any point. We strongly advise you also to familiarize yourself with the new classroom technologies that you will be using.

Once again, thank you for the extra time you are spending to prepare for the fall semester and potential precautionary measures.


Christopher Alan Bracey
Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs