COVID exposures and quarantine are a logistical quagmire for teachers and students


Kylen Lunn | [email protected]

Teacher’s Assistant, Christivel Zulu, starts a zoom session before class in order for students to have access to remote learning Sept.17, 2021 at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale. “I am using zoom, so I decided to just make sure to send the zoom link during class time and out of class via email or zoom and we can talk about it like if they are trying to catch up…” Zulu said.

Teachers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are making adjustments for students missing in-person classes due to COVID-19 exposure.

Christivel Zulu, a Teaching Assistant (TA) in the English department, said she has six students learning virtually from her English 102 classes and has set up a Zoom feed to the classroom to accommodate them.  

Zulu said SIU-C should implement procedures that will help students who are missing class because of COVID, such as having advisors coordinate requests for work extensions and excused absences.


“It will help students to continue catching up with their own work if they are not attending class,” Zulu said. 

Gov. JB Pritzker issued an executive order on Sep.19 requiring healthcare workers, pre-kindergarten through grade12 staff, higher education staff and students to get the COVID-19 vaccine. While this mandate has been put into place, students are still missing out on class because of COVID-19 and according to Zulu in the beginning it was a struggle to get students who were exposed caught up with class.

Remote or hybrid options haven’t been limited just to students in quarantine as a result of COVID exposure. 

Dawn Roberts, a graduate assistant in public health, said she had to change to an exclusively online major to avoid risks associated with taking classes in person.

Long time Carbondale resident and Saluki graduate student, Roberts said she understands SIU-C administrators had a difficult decision to make in balancing student safety, and academic success for students that face structural obstacles in remote learning situations. 

“I’m disappointed in the leadership to a certain degree. I wish that it hadn’t taken a governor’s mandate to spur them to action,” Roberts said. “ I think the balance could have been better achieved by not squashing access to remote or hybrid courses this semester. I think that was a mistake.”

Roberts and Jessica Allee, an editor at Reader Supported News whose husband is an SIU-C professor, were part of a group that circulated a petition demanding the university institute a vaccine mandate and more remote work options before Gov. Pritzker’s mandate was announced.


Allee said while she understands many faculty members asked for a return to in person classes, SIU-C administrators should have been more proactive in accommodating faculty members who wanted remote or hybrid options.

“I think the problem is that we’re in the semester now,” Allee said. “The shortsightedness of the university, and not having had a stronger protocol around this set in place before we start the semester is the real problem.”

Zulu said that providing students a more flexible way to catch up would help reduce stress while waiting for a COVID test.

Ryann Willard, a Theater TA, said that there have been about eight to ten students missing out of every Theater 101 due to quarantine protocols.

“For me it is almost impossible to do Zoom and class at the same time because we do so many activities,” Willard said. “That’s why I upload all of my powerpoints so students can see what I taught on that day, and keep up that way, and then I let them know what pages in the book to read,” 

It is stressful to keep track of who is recovering from COVID, and make sure they get their homework, according to Willard. She said SIU-C should help more with the process.

“It usually takes a couple days for me to get an email from someone letting me know that [they’ll be absent],” Willard said. “It falls on the teachers to help them.” 

Willard said the administration is doing a poor job of communicating with teachers about how long students will be out, and it’s hard to figure out whether or not students should be sending assignments because teachers do not know how sick students are. 

With the lack of communication from the administration about students’ conditions when it comes to COVID, it has become difficult to keep up with who is not turning in their assignments because they are too sick or they just do not feel like doing it Willard said.

Teachers and students have a hard enough time trying to stay safe and avoid getting COVID, but the lack of communication between administration and teachers is adding more stress to the current situation.

“I think that this is kind of the university administration showing its true colors… And the university is choosing to placate and play to what the students are most concerned with, but not necessarily the faculty,” Allee said.

Editors note: an earlier version of this article mistakenly said Dawn Roberts was able to move her program online. It now correctly says she changed to an exclusively online major. It also misattributed a quote to Dawn Roberts that should have been attributed to Jessica Allee.

Staff reporter Janiyah Gaston can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram at @janiyah_reports. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.