Stanford is currently in Stage 2 of the restart process. Only essential workers, authorized researchers and laboratory support personnel and those with permission to be on campus to prepare the campus for restart should be on campus at this time. All work that can be done from home should continue to be done remotely.

Classrooms and Lecture Halls

Autumn 2020

Per the President Tessier-Lavigne’s announcement on August 13, 2020 nearly all undergraduate instruction will be delivered remotely during the autumn quarter, with very limited in person offerings. Nearly all in person offerings will occur outside. The only indoor instruction will occur in specialized teaching spaces with substantial physical distancing.

Per California State COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Institutes of Higher Education, “courses offered in specialized indoor settings (e.g., labs, studio arts), whose design imposes substantial physical distancing on participants based on the nature of work performed in the space, are permitted.”

  • Stanford University interprets substantial physical distancing to mean 150% of the previously recommended 6ft distancing equal to 9ft physical distancing (~250 sq ft per person).

No food or drink (except water) is allowed in instructional spaces, including but not limited to indoor specialized classrooms, art studios, labs as well as outdoor instructional spaces and canopies.

  • Eating, drinking, chewing gum, applying cosmetics, or performing similar activities can result in accidental ingestion of hazardous materials (chemical, biological, and/or radiological). Storing of food, drink, and eating or drinking utensils in the studio or laboratory area can also lead to contamination and subsequent exposure. These actions are prohibited in laboratory areas by the Cal/OSHA (Title 8 regulations,§5193. Bloodborne Pathogens), as well as the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL, 5th Edition), as outlined in Stanford’s Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control and the Biosafety Manual.
  • Additionally, consumption of food or drink necessitates removal of face coverings which is not recommended in instructional settings.

For more information about Autumn 2020 In Person Instructional Planning, see the Registrar’s website. Please direct questions to the Planning for In Person Courses team.

Planning for Winter 2020 or Beyond

When Stanford is able to meet the guidelines to hold in person indoor courses in accordance with county and state guidelines, classrooms and lecture halls will follow these guidelines.­­­ Please direct questions to the Planning for In Person Courses team.

Returning to Indoor Classroom Instruction

Goal: Enable a return to classroom instruction with a focus on supporting the distinctive Stanford academic curriculum and experience. This should be done while supporting sound pedagogy, limiting potential exposure, mitigating cross-contact usage of common spaces and resources, increasing the square footage per person in the classroom, and establishing new behavioral norms to support safety.

As Stanford prepares for a staged return to campus life and operations, it is important to establish a shared framework, guidelines, and behavioral norms that support and enhance the distinctive Stanford academic experience. These guidelines aim to support graduate and undergraduate curricula and sound pedagogy while keeping students, instructors, and staff safe.

Guiding Principles

Stanford’s return to classroom instruction is informed by the following principles.

Principle #1: Protect health, safety, and well-being

  • Adequate sanitation supplies must be provided to ensure student, instructor, and staff safety.
  • The educational and training needs of students must be balanced with their safe participation in the academic mission.
  • We must continue to adhere to all local, county, state, and national public health authority directives.

Principle #2: Continue instruction remotely whenever possible

  • Continuing to support excellence in online education will be important as only a small percentage of classes will be able to be taught in person.
  • Prioritize those classes where online learning prevents or significantly impedes meaningful student engagement or completion of course learning objectives, e.g., performance, small group discussion, gallery walk, debates, collaborative learning groups, think-pair-share, lab exercises and procedures.

Principle #3: Share responsibility for safety

  • Success of the instructional mission is dependent upon community members supporting each other.
  • Instructors are highly influential in encouraging and supporting behavioral change.
  • It is important for departments and schools to coordinate as needed across units or in shared spaces.

General Health and Safety Guidance

The purpose of this document is to provide campus partners with concrete guidelines for selecting spaces in which instruction can be conducted within the bounds of proper health and safety during recovery. Please note this guidance is subject to change, dependent upon federal, state and/or local directives.

Some classrooms, teaching labs, instructional spaces or other learning spaces may not strictly meet the minimum requirements below. For spaces that meet unique academic needs that cannot be met elsewhere, EH&S and VPTL are available for case-by-case review. Request Classroom Restart Assistance

Minimum Facility Requirements

  1. Only buildings/rooms with mechanical ventilation should be used for instruction.
  2. All work surfaces must be hard and be easily cleaned. Hard seats are strongly preferred whenever feasible. However, it is acknowledged that many fixed seating classrooms have cloth seats. In these classrooms, we are instituting two different seating charts in order to minimize the number of students using the same seat. Additionally, as part of the undergraduate and graduate student welcome packages, they will be receiving a mat they can take to outdoor classes. For students concerned about cloth seats, they may use these mats or other materials such as towels or blankets to provide a barrier to the seating surface.
  3. Access to specific classrooms and spaces need to be evaluated to provide instructors and students safe access and egress. Directional signage should be added where appropriate in compliance with LBRE guidelines.
  4. Classrooms and spaces chosen should also be wheelchair accessible. There must be a way for the wheelchair user to physically distance within the space.

Classroom Configurations

  1. Classrooms should be configured with capacities that respect local county or city requirements. While it may be likely that when Autumn starts, gatherings of more than 10-15 may be allowed; a conservative planning number is currently 10-15. This includes instructors, TA’s, interpreters/captionists, and guest speakers. This number will be determined prior to enrollment opening in September, as increasing this number will further limit available inventory.
  2. Classrooms need to be configured to ensure everyone can remain at least 6 feet apart.
    1. To screen which classrooms may be appropriate, first consider how mobile students are.
      1. For stationary students, provide at least a baseline of 40 square feet of space per person (space can include equipment, furniture, etc). Long courses (e.g., half- or full-day) should provide 100-150 square feet of space per person. Once qualified classrooms are identified, consider classroom layouts that ensure at least 6 feet of distancing between occupants, including the instructor, teaching assistant, and any support staff (e.g., technologists, note takers, sign language interpreters, etc.).
      2. For classes with mobile student activities (e.g., laboratory and shop courses), provide 250 square feet of space per person to allow students and instructors to move freely with 6 feet of personal space. Provide one chemical fume hood or laboratory bench per student.
    2. In lecture style fixed-seating classrooms, ensure 8-10 feet from the podium/whiteboard area (marked instructor’s teaching space) to the first row of students. This type of classroom typically has a lecturer doing most of the talking, while facing students.
    3. In larger lecture halls and auditoria, place additional signage near the stage to support 8-10 feet of physical distancing when waiting after class to ask questions of the instructor.
  3. Acceptable seating locations should be clearly marked on the desk/table using the Stay Safe Program green dot. Remove excess seating, furniture and equipment when possible.
  4. Methods for loading and unloading the classroom should be posted in order to minimize close contact between students. For example, filling in the seats farthest from the entrance first. This can be accomplished with directional signage.
  5. If class work requires unavoidable and essential face-to-face or close-proximity work, limited installation of plastic partitions may be appropriate. Technology solutions should also be considered. To determine if plastic partitions are necessary and appropriate, request Classroom Restart Assistance.
  6. Identify ADA seats with placement and pathways most conducive to inclusivity and participation as well as being easiest to navigate. The design of pathways and remaining seats should follow ADA requirements.

Cleaning and Safety

  1. Cleaning materials should be available at the entrance to each class.
    1. Students should wipe down their work area before using the seat/desk.
    2. Instructors should wipe podium, AV buttons, microphone and battery, keyboard, HDMI/VGA cables before class. Further guidance will be provided.
  2. Instructors and students must complete the health check prior to their first in-person class each day.
  3. Instructors and students are currently required to wear cloth face coverings at all times in classrooms/teaching areas. The use of face shields alone does not replace the requirement at the time of publication. Accommodations can be granted by the Office for Accessible Education (students) or the Disability and Access Office (faculty, staff, instructors).
  4. Classrooms and facilities will be cleaned according to EH&S cleaning guidelines.

Technology and Equipment

  1. Remove all shared equipment such as markers, chalk and erasers. Instructors and departments need to coordinate obtaining these materials for personal use and instructors are responsible for cleaning, bringing them to, and removing them from the classroom for each class session.
  2. For classrooms or spaces where amplified sound is enabled, space managers should assign individual microphones to instructors; battery packs may be shared and cleaned by the instructor. Microphone use should be encouraged over voice elevation due to increased aerosols. VPTL is available for consultation.
  3. Shared equipment (such as in shop or lab classes) should be minimized wherever possible, but can be used with gloves or disinfection between users, as appropriate.
  4. Generally, technology can be cleaned with disinfecting wipes and dried with microfiber cleaning cloths. Other technology and equipment may have specialized cleaning protocols. EH&S is available for consultation.
  5. Use electronic handouts wherever possible. For any courses where physical materials (e.g, glassware, chemicals, etc) are required, reduce student circulation by having these items at each workspace prior to the class session.

Scheduling Considerations

  1. Passing periods between classes will be extended to a minimum of 30 minutes.
  2. Ensure that all classes approved for in person instruction have enrollment capacities that do not exceed the allowed gathering limit for Stanford.
  3. The Law School, Graduate School of Business, and School of Medicine should manage the approvals of their courses to teach in person and continue to manage the assignment of their courses into their spaces as long as the space complies with the guidelines contained herein.
  4. For School of Engineering, School of Humanities and Sciences, School of Earth, and Graduate School of Education, once approval to teach in person (guidance coming soon) has been granted, those courses requiring specialized spaces such as labs, studios, etc., shall be scheduled by those space managers. All other classroom space assignments shall be managed within the Registrar’s Office.
  5. Regardless of who is coordinating the scheduling and assignments, Axess must be updated with the correct room and/or location as appropriate in order for the Registrar to support contact tracing by Vaden or other health staff. New rooms can be added as necessary to Axess and/or 25Live by the Registrar’s Office as needed.

Special Considerations

  1. Instructors and students should refrain from loitering and socializing before or after class in designated classroom space to minimize contact and allow for air exchange between classes. Instructors wanting to make themselves available to students after class should identify an outdoor space to gather whenever possible.
  2. In shop, laboratory, or other courses with risk of injury or exposure to hazardous materials, an instructor can break physical distance guidance to assist an injured student or in an emergency.
  3. Performance courses may require increased physical distancing due to increased droplet generation (vocal or musical instrument courses). Specific recommendations for performance courses are being developed.
  4. For classroom accommodations:
    1. Students should contact the Office of Accessible Education.
    2. Instructors should contact the Disability and Accessibility Office.

Sample Classroom Distancing Guidelines by Classroom Type

Classrooms with Fixed Seating

This includes lecture halls, auditoria, and case study classrooms with fixed seats.


  • Because of the inflexibility of moving accessible seating, it is important to take into account the location of these seats first before determining seating for the rest of the classroom.
  • Ensure instructor teaching space is clearly marked. There should be 8-10 feet between the instructor and the first row of students.
  • Measure seat distance to determine spacing to facilitate 6’ physical distancing. Mark each appropriate seat with a Stay Safe Program green dot.
    • Every other row, or every two rows should be left empty depending on classroom configuration. Approximately every fourth seat per row can be occupied.
  • Consider alternating seat and row assignments/availability according to scheduling blocks to minimize sharing; mark with specialized green dot (see below). Staggering seating arrangements between classes, alternating rows and seats will reduce sharing of desks and seats.
Example of a lecture hall's seating area beginning with the first row
Scheduling Block 1: First Row and every and other row
Example of a lecture hall's seating area beginning with row 2
Scheduling Block 2: Second Row and every and other row

Examples of Occupant Limits in Lecture Halls

Photo of lecture hall with letters on seats

Example of Occupant Limits in Fixed Seat Case Style Classroom

Photo of lecture hall with letters on seats

Classrooms with Movable Tables & Seating

This includes flex classrooms, seminar rooms, and large conference rooms used for classes. Depending on the size of the space, seminar style configurations are preferred particularly in smaller classrooms.


  • Identify accessible seating near entrances and ensure they are clearly marked.
  • Because furniture is not fixed, place identifiers on the floor to indicate 6 feet of physical distance between seats. Where possible, seats should not directly align across the classroom. There should be an offset.
  • Signage should be posted that indicates moving of furniture is prohibited.
  • Remove unused furniture when possible.

Example of Occupant Limits in Seminar Room with Movable Tables and Seats

Photo of a lecture hall with tables spread apart, and one seat per table

Top down illustration of a classroom with tables spaced apart, and a single chair per table
3D perpective rendering of a classroom with tables spaced apart, and a single chair per table

Shop and Laboratory Classrooms

This includes wet and dry labs or other spaces where hazardous materials or shared equipment are used.


  • Review and apply guidelines from Research Recovery.
  • EH&S is available to consult on general recommendations as well as review specific rooms or questions.

Performance and Studio Classrooms

This includes performance spaces and rehearsal halls used for classes.


  • Performance courses may require greater physical distancing due to increased droplet generation (vocal or musical instrument courses). Specific recommendations are being developed.
  • EH&S is available to consult on general recommendations as well as review specific rooms or questions, as needed.

Outdoor Classrooms

There is an active effort to review outdoor spaces for academic, research, recreational, and public use and further information is forthcoming.

Instructional Support Spaces

All other spaces should achieve the 6-foot distance whenever possible.

Post-Class Touchdown Spaces

Students often need to ask instructors questions one-on-one after class; these interactions are critical to the learning process, providing students with additional and timely feedback, clarification, and learning. It is important to preserve these student-interactions while keeping instructors and students safe. Consider identifying a regular outdoor space to support post-class consultation.


  • Encourage students and instructors to migrate outside for these conversations whenever possible.
  • Intentional, reserved post-class touchdown or consultation spaces with appropriately marked spacing for queueing is recommended when outdoor options are not available.
  • Instructors should clarify after-class consultation protocols in the syllabus.

Unused Classrooms

As existing classrooms are being evaluated for their suitability for use in a socially distanced world, many of our classrooms are too small to support courses while still meeting health and safety guidelines.

These spaces may be useful in supplementing graduate student workspaces or research support. Many graduate students and staff work in densely packed offices, some of these spaces could be temporarily used to support social distancing for the staff required to be on campus for their work but where current office layouts do not support social distancing.

Another possible use for these spaces is to provide instructors space to teach remotely. Spaces that are already set up for video conferencing or could be converted easily are being reviewed for instructional use this Autumn.

These spaces will be evaluated and appropriately signed after the assessment of the larger classroom spaces is complete. These spaces may not be immediately available for use.

More information will be forthcoming as these details are worked out.

Specialized Spaces – More Information Forthcoming

Further information is forthcoming about specialized spaces, including

  • Computer labs and clusters
  • Galleries used for instruction
  • Informal learning spaces
  • Instructional lab spaces
  • Makerspaces
  • Performance & rehearsal spaces
  • Recording studios
  • Shop spaces
  • Specialized instructional support spaces (dressing rooms, workrooms, tool storage, etc.)
  • Studios

Classroom Restart Checklist

The Classroom Signage Toolkit provides visual indicators for:

  • Outdoor classrooms
  • Specialized classrooms
  • Indoor classrooms

Signs can be ordered via the sign shop here: