NU teachers create their own contact tracing systems to keep COVID-19 safe in the classroom North West teachers create COVID-19 contact tracing systems


Some North West professors have created their own contact tracing systems to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their classrooms amid unclear university guidelines.

NU’s current contact tracing protocol does not require an assigned seat, making it difficult for students who test positive to identify close contacts in the classroom. Some professors have created seating plans to make contact tracing easier if someone tests positive.

Jewish studies professor Dana Mihailescu posted room plans on Canvas for her students and asked them to sit as far away as possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. She said this system worked well with small classes and her students consistently sat in the same seats.

“Every time I come to class, I make sure they keep the seats they were determined to use at the start of class,” Mihailescu said.

Although it is not mandatory, Mihailescu said she wants to take steps to protect her students and the community. She said professors are encouraged to provide as much information as possible for contact tracing. Although none of her students have contracted COVID-19, she said she was ready to protect them and let them know if someone tested positive.

Gender and Sexuality Studies Professor Paola Zamperini uses a seating plan for their larger class, but not for their small class of 10.

“I hope if any students were exposed they would all let us know, because given the small classroom we are in, we are all always within 6 feet of each other,” Zamperini said.

But because students aren’t required to get tested regularly, Zamperini said she wasn’t sure if seating plans were still helpful. She questioned the continuation of her policy due to the lack of updates and specific guidance from the University.

Many professors do not require students to sit in assigned seats. Communication student Aerin Gelblum only has a seating chart in one of its four classrooms.

Her political science professor, Wendy Pearlman, asked the students to fill out a seating chart and space out every three seats. Gelblum said she wonders if the seating charts are necessary, as students typically directly alert friends and close contacts if they test positive.

“It’s more of a social responsibility than an academic responsibility,” Gelblum said. “It’s just the line of being a good friend or a human to those you interact with.”

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