A Different SAIC

A Different SAIC

While we are offering many modified in-person courses this year, we know teaching, learning, working, and living on campus feels different. We ask students, faculty, and staff for their flexibility and understanding as we make all necessary modifications to allow for social distancing and enact other needed changes to our processes and physical layout to reduce the risks to our community. In addition to modified in-person courses, we are offering a significant number of online courses. 

As our teams developed the many planning details required for our return to campus, they kept in mind the need for flexibility, knowing that the global pandemic presents ever-evolving challenges that will necessitate ongoing adjustments. We will continue to share frequent updates with the campus community throughout the year.

SAIC made many adjustments to its physical plant and facilities operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve highlighted some of these efforts below.


  • We’ve improved the air quality in campus buildings:
    • We upgraded HVAC filtration from a MERV 8 to a MERV 13 air filter where we don’t already have either carbon or UV filtration systems. These filters help filter out biological contaminants.
    • We increased the percentage of outside air brought into a building from 40 to 60 percent, where environmental conditions permit.
  • Existing favorable conditions:
    • All of our restrooms have direct ventilation to the outdoors, providing consistent fresh air and removal of contaminants.
    • All spaces on campus have an air exchange of three to four times per hour. Air removed from campus spaces is filtered and mixed with outside air before being brought back into the building.
    • Residential rooms in the residence halls have independent HVAC systems along with operable windows to allow in fresh air.
  • Approved face coverings are required upon entry to all SAIC buildings and in public areas and shared spaces, and all students, faculty, and staff are expected to do a daily symptom check before coming to campus.
  • We developed new floor plans for classrooms, lounge spaces, the Neiman Center, and the SAIC Ballroom to allow for distancing, and created detailed plans for all lobbies to allow for distancing, which includes wayfinding signage and stanchions in place for traffic flow.
  • Plexiglass partitions have been installed at all points of entry, open offices, and labs where six feet of physical distance cannot be consistently maintained.
  • We’ve posted health, safety, and physical distancing signage in all classrooms, studios, instructional support spaces, and common areas. The number of people allowed in an elevator has also been capped at four with floor markers directing riders.
  • We created additional study spaces on campus to promote physical distancing, and added tents outside of the 280 building to be used for outdoor classes and meeting spaces.

Cleaning and Sanitation

Housekeeping efforts have been modified, particularly for high-usage rooms, high-traffic spaces, and frequently touched objects. Increased attention is dedicated to spaces like restrooms, lobbies, elevators, and cafes throughout the day. During overnight hours all classrooms, studios, and common areas are cleaned.

While we’ve modified our efforts and increased our equipment resources, cleaning and sanitation throughout our campus depends on everyone’s participation. Certain surfaces, such as personal desks, tables with student or faculty projects that cannot be moved, personal phones, and electronics such as keyboards are not cleaned regularly by the housekeeping staff. Community members are expected to help by disinfecting shared spaces, as outlined in Our Shared Responsibilities.

To assist in these efforts, sanitation supplies have been placed in all classrooms and other high-traffic spaces including hand sanitizer, disinfectant cleaner, paper towels, and facial tissue. Students, faculty, and staff may utilize these supplies to wipe down surfaces and sanitize hands as frequently as desired. Supplies are being regularly monitored and filled by our Facility Services staff, and requests for refills can be made by calling 312.499.4920 or emailing irfm@saic.edu.

Instructional Resources and Facilities Management (IRFM) also worked with departments to develop cleaning protocols for each area, including those that have circulating equipment such as the shops and media centers

A Year into the Pandemic

How has SAIC adapted to the pandemic?
Over the last year, we’ve all experienced a multitude of changes to almost every aspect of our lives, not just on SAIC’s campus. But as an art school, SAIC has never shied away from the chance to be creative. Thanks to technology, our students and faculty have been able to continue their education virtually uninterrupted. Although the sudden change required all of us to learn or invent new ways to create and interact, we’ve risen to the challenge. 

We created a Student Guide for Remote Learning + Making to assist students in adjusting to their new environments. The guide provides detailed information about everything from the technical aspects of remote learning to setting up home studios for a variety of mediums. 

Is the School of the Art Institute of Chicago closing?
No, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is not closing. SAIC continues to deliver a world-class education across dozens of programs. In the fall of 2020, we returned to campus with modified in-person classes. 

What’s next for SAIC?
We are committed to continue providing the best education possible to our students, and later this spring we’ll share updates on our fall semester. Moving forward, many of the lessons learned over this past year will be used to improve our instruction long after the pandemic.