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Webinar Addresses Questions, Concerns About Staff Units Returning to Campus

July 9, 2020

Roughly 150 CU Denver staff members attended a July 8 webinar on safe return to campus plans to learn more about if and how staff units will return to campus this fall. The Zoom discussion was led by a panel of six campus administrators, many of whom serve on the Safe Return Team: 

  • Kelly Hupfeld, Associate Dean, School of Public Affairs, Co-Lead, Safe Return Coordinating Team 
  • Alana Jones, Interim Vice Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor of Student Success, Co-Lead, Safe Return Coordinating Team 
  • Paul Teske, Dean, School of Public Affairs, Co-Lead of the Safe Return Coordinating Team
  • Carry Weatherford, Executive Director, Institutional Planning, Chair, Safety Team
  • David Tracer, Associate Dean of Student Success, Chair, Safety Team
  • Doug Kasyon, HR Director of Employee Performance and Development

Panelists kicked off the webinar by outlining the safe return planning process, reviewing safety protocols in place on campus, and addressing human resource concerns. At the end of the hour-long discussion, panelists answered a list of questions from viewers.

Plans for a safe return to campus have been underway since late April. Currently, mission critical employees and those approved to resume research and creative activities have been allowed back on campus with extensive safety protocols in place, including a required online training, daily check-ins at two health stations on campus, mandatory face coverings indoors and outdoors, social distancing guidelines, a stay-to-the-right policy, and ID badging to access buildings.  

On July 7, students were notified that course formats and schedules for the fall semester had, for the most part, been finalized. About a quarter of all courses (over 700) are expected to have some on-campus presence (either fully on campus or hybrid), and 2,100 courses will take place either remotely or online. 

The Safe Return Team is now addressing how certain staff units that require in-person contact will return to campus this fall. “We don’t want a ton of people on campus, but we want the right people on campus who need to be there for the most important tasks in working with students and faculty,” Teske said during the webinar. 

Staff units have been asked to begin discussing essential service delivery for the fall. A unit safe return guide sent the week of June 29 walked unit leads through the safe return planning process, which includes submitting a Unit Safe Return Plan and identifying a Safe Return Coordinator who will work with the Office of Institutional Planning to determine the amount of people allowed back in an office space. Occupancy will be determined using a seven-foot, 10-inch diameter circle. “That allows for six feet of distancing between people when you account for the average size of a torso,” Weatherford said.  

Kasyon from Human Resources acknowledged that there may be staff who don’t feel comfortable returning to campus because of underlying health conditions and/or individuals in their residences with underlying health conditions. Those staff members will be asked to fill out a form and provide a note from a medical provider on behalf of themselves or a person in their residence. “Hopefully we can get some pretty swift turnaround and arrangements in place with regard to those concerns,” Kasyon said.

In response to a commonly asked question—if you can work from home, should you— Kayson said, “The approval of that kind of approach is going to reside within the authority in charge of your area. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a decision that HR has purview over. I encourage the discussion.”

During the Q&A portion of the webinar, panelists addressed common themes of questions from viewers. 

Enforcement of Safety Protocols 

The Safe Return Team is considering recruiting volunteers as ambassadors stationed around campus to enforce safety protocols and promote the message that we are all in this together. 

By submitting a Unit Safe Return Plan, staff members coming to campus are agreeing to abide by the COVID-19 protocols in place, Tracer said. If a student violates a safety protocol, it will be considered a violation of the code of conduct and handled through the conduct code violation process. 

Screening Stations

The number of screening stations is “evolving,” Tracer said. Currently there are two: in the North Classroom and at Lynx Crossing Residence Hall. If temperature checks continue at these stations, it’s likely more will open. The number of staff units returning to campus will also be a determinant. “If we do have a fair number of people coming to campus, we are imagining at least four check points on the Auraria Campus and at least one across Speer Boulevard servicing the Lawrence Street Center, CU Building, and Business School,” Tracer said. 

Safe Return Plans on a Shared Campus 

The Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) has formed a quad-institutional planning team of leaders from AHEC, the Community College of Denver (CCD), Metropolitan State University (MSU), and CU Denver. Weatherford and Tracer serve on this team. As of now, all safety protocols except for temperature checks are consistent across the three institutions on the Auraria Campus. Unlike CU Denver, CCD and MSU allow those approved to enter campus to check their temperatures at home and fill out an attestation form.

Contact Tracing 

The Safe Return Team is in the process of putting together a contact tracing team comprising six to eight students who will take an online training from the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center and work with Denver Public Health. 


Plans for visitors are evolving. The process will likely include a sign-in or greeting component, or both. “It’s likely that visitors will have to be logged somewhere, and they will need to follow all protocols that everyone else on the campus will be following,” Tracer said.  

Phasing Down

The Safe Return Team will be working with the School of Public Health and Denver Public Health to avoid going from “black to white,” Hupfeld said. “We would like to be able to look at it in terms of what are the variables that would cause us to close down a classroom or building; when do we think about going from 30 percent occupancy on campus to 10 percent?” Hupfeld said. “The goal is to be able to go up and down with the variation of COVID-19.”

Generally, CU Denver will follow state and local guidance. “If the state gets to a point where it says we need to back off, we will do that,” Hupfeld said.

Units Effectively Working Remotely

Staff units need to consider who they are serving that they would need to have an on-campus presence for and include leadership in the conversation. “If you’re serving students and there will be students on campus, what is the best way to serve those students?” Hupfeld said. “If you are a back-office unit, you may be able to serve your constituents really well remotely, and it’s OK to do that as long as leadership agrees.”

Positive Case After Return 

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 after returning to the office, they will go into self-quarantine and a contact tracer will work with the individual to determine where they have been and who they have come in close contact with. 

The risk of transmission is minimal if safety protocols are followed. “If everyone is maintaining their six-foot difference, and if people are wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), then having a positive person in your midst is only a problem if there was relatively close contact for a period of approximately one hour,” Tracer said. 

As staff units begin forming safe return plans, the panelists welcome any questions they may encounter.

View the full video.