Return to In-person Instruction for Fall 2020
5/29/20 10:01 a.m.
At Pennsylvania College of Technology, our hallmark – even during these unsettling times of pandemic – continues to be hands-on learning supported by in-person instruction. It’s an enduring educational model, imbuing our graduates with the bedrock skills needed to confidently perform the work of society’s most essential occupations.
Guided by that constant – and knowing that our campus community of innovators has answered a rallying call many times before – we are committed to returning students for in-person instruction in Fall 2020, with classes starting on Monday, August 17.
Adaptability remains another Penn College trademark, and we will keep everyone as safe and protected as possible in these fast-changing times. Beyond conforming with the latest guidance and protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there are additional institutional characteristics that clearly distinguish Penn College in regard to health and safety. More about that shortly.
As you are aware, we made remarkable progress toward finishing the Spring 2020 semester, with 93 percent of our coursework completed remotely, an extraordinary feat for a college of applied technology, showcasing the ingenuity and dogged determination of faculty and students alike.
Working closely with faculty, we have devised plans to complete the unfinished work of spring on a course-by-course basis. Absent unforeseen changes in government guidance, we will reopen July 27 for students returning for three weeks of makeup, in-person instruction that could not be completed before circumstances forced us to close in March.
On August 3, students needing two weeks of makeup, in-person instruction will return to campus.
On August 10, students needing one week of makeup, in-person instruction will return, along with any returning students wishing to refresh/supplement their lab skills (at no cost) before the start of the fall semester. (Academic Affairs will provide returning students with more specifics related to this voluntary lab experience in the coming weeks.)
Finally, on August 17, the Fall 2020 semester begins officially for all first-year and returning Penn College students.
Now, about those institutional characteristics I referenced earlier. They are crucial, because we know that students are expecting us to provide a secure environment in which to pursue their studies and career aspirations. We know that their parents are seeking the same assurances.
First and foremost, we will comply with – and clearly communicate – the most up-to-date government and health agency directives for social distancing, masking, enhanced cleaning protocols (for facilities and equipment), classroom and lab sizes and capacities, and much more. Our COVID-19 website will provide details, serving as repository and archive for all pandemic messaging, and a COVID-19 Student Resources page continues to direct students to various sources of practical information.
Penn College is extremely fortunate to have a premier health-system resource like UPMC Susquehanna, a frequent partner with us for various initiatives, located virtually in our “backyard” in Williamsport.
UPMC offers access to robust COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, pandemic guidance, and much more.
Additionally, we have a considerable number of Penn College faculty and staff who are health-care and/or emergency management professionals, we provide a College Health Services facility on campus, and we can offer quarantine facilities as needed.
Some other factors that enable us to mitigate risk and offer safe interaction on campus:
- Our rural location affords a higher level of protection than colleges in larger metropolitan settings.
- The size of our campus/physical plant allows for more optimal spacing of people, offices, classrooms, labs, and facilities.
- Our industry-standard labs are expansive, offering ample spacing opportunities.
- Our average class size (16) facilitates social distancing.
- Blended coursework offers additional classroom-scheduling and spacing flexibility.
- Our industry partners are able to offer solutions that have worked for them in real-world settings.
When communicating with you over the past couple of months about the College’s planning for COVID-19, I have referenced the ethical, moral and professional obligations we must satisfy with our response. Those obligations remain. Above all else, our response must provide a safe haven for those who have entrusted us with their education. But we are mindful, as well, of our commitment to provide students with the type of instruction for which we are renowned, and of our responsibility to fulfill the needs of employers, who desperately need our skilled graduates to continue operations in uncertain economic times.
Please know that we have the resolve and the resources to accommodate all of these obligations as we move forward with our reopening plans. We will continue to communicate with you throughout this process, and I respectfully ask for your compliance with any and all guidelines that we must follow to accomplish our goals. Together, we will persevere. Stay safe and be well.
Davie Jane Gilmour, President
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever and indications of lower respiratory illness such as cough and difficulty breathing. These symptoms may be similar to the flu or the common cold. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia and other complications, especially in infants, older individuals, and those with underlying health conditions.
As is typical in this season, we are seeing cases of influenza and other common respiratory illnesses in our students, faculty and staff. Please remember the steps we take every day to help prevent any respiratory illness:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer available in College Health Services.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you are feeling sick.
Wear A Mask in Public
The Pennsylvania Department of Health encourages members of the public to wear homemade cloth or fabric masks and to save surgical masks for our health care workers and first responders. Remember this saying: "My mask protects you, your mask protects me."
If you have traveled recently or have been in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and are experiencing the symptoms referenced above, seek medical attention immediately. Before you visit a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and let them know of your recent travel and symptoms. Wear a mask if you need to leave your home when you are sick.
In addition to monitoring information provided by the CDC, the U.S. Department of State also lists travel advisories related to COVID-19.
Please review the information below for additional guidance.
- Whether you plan to travel abroad or within the U.S., we encourage you to discuss your spring break itinerary with your families and loved ones, sharing your travel providers and the contact information for your travel companions.
- If you plan to travel abroad, check entry and exit requirements for the U.S. and your intended destination before your departure and return. Many countries have instituted restrictions and quarantines for travel that may directly affect you.
- Be mindful that travel restrictions can change with little or no advance notice, and airlines may change or cancel flights in response.
- Anyone returning from a country identified by the CDC as “affected” may be directed to self-quarantine for 14 days. As countries are added to the list by CDC, health care providers can apply the quarantine requirement without specific directives.
- When Spring Break travelers who have been to affected countries return to the U.S., they will be encouraged to return to their home residences for the 14-day self-quarantine.
Global Experience Trips
The International Programs Office has contacted all student, faculty and staff members who registered for Global Experience Programs in the Spring 2020 Semester. All of these trips have been canceled. Specific information about refunds, course credit, etc. is being provided directly to those impacted.
Precautions on Campus
General Services coordinates with College Heath Services and senior administration to closely monitor COVID-19. Custodial teams routinely disinfect – with industrial, hospital-grade disinfectants – all high-touch areas in classrooms/labs and common spaces across campus including doorknobs, touch plates, light switches, and computer keyboards and mice.
All area dispensers are stocked with hand sanitizer, and hand-wash stations are regularly stocked to encourage personal hygiene. Additional hand-sanitizer stations are being installed throughout campus.
More Resources and FAQ
While there is much that is unknown about COVID-19, the CDC’s prevention tips, recommended during each cold and flu season, remain useful. COVID-19 has similar symptoms to the flu, so it is important not to make any assumptions.
The CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions site features information about how the virus spreads, its symptoms, prevention and treatment, what to do if you are sick, and much more.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health website also features a wealth of information and updates related to COVID-19, including the latest numbers on presumptive positive and confirmed cases in Pennsylvania.
We urge each member of the Penn College Community to follow the precautions recommended by health agencies and to heed the latest travel advisories before, during and after Spring Break.
Images source: cdc.org and health.pa.gov