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3/18/2022 - Spring-term Instruction

To: The Caltech Community

From: Kevin M. Gilmartin, Vice President for Student Affairs
David A. Tirrell, Provost

Date: March 18, 2022

Re: Spring-term Instruction

The Institute will return fully to in-person instruction for the spring term.

The recent decline in COVID-19 cases, on campus and in Los Angeles County, allows us to plan for all spring 2022 classes to be offered in person. We made a gradual transition from remote to in-person instruction during the winter term, with the final weeks of the term conducted almost entirely in person. Some of our large lectures were offered remotely only because we limited room occupancy to 50% of normal; that constraint will be eliminated for all spring-term classes. We will maintain at least four clean air changes per hour in indoor classrooms and laboratories, and outdoor teaching spaces will remain available.

With the expectation that recent improvements in the public-health situation will be sustained, we plan to conduct the spring term in the following manner:

  • All students enrolled in spring-term courses who have traveled over spring break will be required to undergo antigen testing immediately upon return to campus, and to re-engage promptly in the surveillance testing program. This requirement does not apply to students registered only for research units.
  • Courses will be expected to meet in person beginning with the first day of class; however, instructors will have the authority to conduct the first week of instruction remotely if they have concerns about health risks associated with travel over spring break. After week one, all class meetings should be conducted in person. We should take advantage of lessons learned from our online instructional experience to complement and enhance our in-person educational program. Instructors are advised to continue to use Canvas, Caltech's Learning Management System, as it remains the central location for students to find course materials.
  • Everyone involved in in-person instruction should perform a daily self-assessment for symptoms of COVID-19 (which include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or diarrhea). Anyone who experiences COVID-like symptoms must report that information immediately through the COVID-19 Reporting Application. Do not attend class if you are ill.
  • N95 masks will be required in all teaching spaces, including outdoor spaces, during the first week of the term. After week one, masks will not be required by Institute rules, but instructors will have the authority to require masks to be worn during class meetings throughout the term. Students should carry N95 masks to class and be prepared to "mask up" if asked to do so. Furthermore, we encourage continued optional use of masks, especially in larger classes. While the likelihood of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the classroom is low, it can be reduced further by the use of N95 masks.
  • All undergraduate students and all graduate students who live in Caltech housing or who are enrolled in spring-term courses must continue to submit two samples per week to the surveillance testing program. If case counts remain low, we may reduce the frequency of testing required of students. Other members of the community are encouraged to participate in the surveillance testing program.
  • Instructors will no longer be required to record or offer lectures remotely for students who are unable to attend in-person class meetings. Students who miss class should contact their instructors to access or make-up the material, as they would have prior to the pandemic.

While these steps toward a more traditional academic term are justified by current public-health conditions, we will continue to monitor COVID-19 case counts on campus and in the broader community, as well as other public-health indicators. We are prepared to reinstate some or all of our prior precautions if circumstances dictate that we do so. Please keep in mind that some members of our community are facing elevated risks and concerns associated with COVID-19. They may have unvaccinated children or elderly relatives at home, or have health conditions that make them more susceptible to severe disease. Treating one another respectfully may require us to take extra precautions from time to time, beyond those specified by Institute policy.

Additional information about spring-term instruction can be found at learn.caltech.edu for students, and at teach.caltech.edu for instructors. Students with questions should contact their advisors, their instructors or the appropriate dean's office. Instructors with questions should contact their division offices.