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K-State Today

June 23, 2020

Classroom assessment and planning for fall semester

Submitted by Chuck Taber and Cindy Bontrager

Dear faculty and staff,

As we prepare for teaching this fall, many changes are anticipated to help protect the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and our communities. One of these changes is reduced capacity in classrooms to conform to recommended social distancing guidelines and ventilation rates. Every classroom/lab on campus as well as potential alternate spaces that may be converted into classroom space are currently being assessed for their viability for use during the pandemic. 

We have formed a small team to work with the university community to complete this assessment and develop classroom scheduling recommendations based on conformity to ASHRAE 62.1 ventilation requirements and social distancing criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Casey Lauer, assistant vice president for university operations, will lead the team, which also includes Diana Hutchison, director of campus planning and project management; Julia Keen, professor and Bob and Betty Tointon engineering chair; and Kelley Brundage, university registrar. 

This process unfortunately is going to take time. Understanding the priority and impact on class delivery, additional resources have been dedicated to this effort to provide the information as quickly as possible. The current goal is to distribute a first iteration of capacities during the first week of July and the final maximum capacity recommendations and scheduling criteria for all classrooms and teaching labs by mid-July.

There are 134 general use, or GU, classrooms, 193 departmental, or DU, classrooms, and 256 teaching labs on the Manhattan campus. This team is also gathering, assessing and verifying information for other large gathering spaces on the Manhattan campus as well as 58 classrooms on the Polytechnic campus.

The team is well into the data collection phase, gathering pertinent classroom information with respect to physical characteristics, furniture, IT capability and fenestration. This information will be used to determine classroom capacities and shared with ITS to aid with making investments into IT infrastructure for technology-supported instruction. 

The Division of Facilities recently defined reduced capacities based on social distancing criteria for GU classrooms; capacities for DU and teaching labs now need to be defined in a consistent manner to ensure institutional conformity to social distancing guidelines during teaching and instruction. Substantial progress has also been made to inventory HVAC systems using design documents for all classrooms and teaching labs; however, analysis and verification of this data is necessary.

A centralized team approach working with the colleges and departments is needed for this assessment because it is very important that there be consistency in the approach and application across our instructional spaces. We know that some departments and colleges have initiated their own assessments and are considering potential layouts. We do not want to discourage those efforts, but do want to coordinate planning. To minimize the duplication of efforts, we ask that the guidelines below be used when developing layouts. 

Criteria to establish maximum classroom capacity:

  • Six-foot nose-to-nose spacing per CDC guidance.
  • Minimum ventilation rates per ASHRAE Standard 62.1.
  • Furniture type/style remain the same as located in the room on June 17, 2020.

Assumptions used when determining these numbers:

  • Single faculty member at the front of the room maintaining six-foot social distance from students.
  • All occupants wearing face coverings.
  • Appropriate clearance provided at doorways/building components (columns, fixed mechanical/IT and other elements).

If departments have already conducted the assessment for their DU classrooms, please share it with faccampusplanning@k-state.edu. The following information should be provided: building name, room number, department name, floor plan with desk arrangement indicated, information on the style of desk or seating (provide photo). All space layouts and capacities will be reviewed and monitored centrally to ensure consistency. If you have questions, please contact Casey Lauer at cslauer@k-state.edu

Completing this work in the coming weeks is critical for faculty planning how they will conduct their classes this fall while minimizing risk. This effort will take hard work, patience and cooperation and we appreciate the efforts of everyone involved.


Chuck Taber
Provost and executive vice president 

Cindy Bontrager
Vice president and chief operations officer