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On-campus learning and work to resume this fall

Penn State Harrisburg is continuing to prepare for the start of the fall semester on Monday, Aug. 24.

Penn State Harrisburg is continuing to prepare for the start of the fall semester on Monday, Aug. 24, with on-campus, in-person classes and a flexible instructional model that will include in-person and remote learning. At the same time, the University continues to closely monitor state and national virus data and follow guidance from national, state and local health authorities. Based on that guidance, and in consultation with faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health, the University is prepared to adjust its approach for the fall as necessary.

More than 250 Penn State faculty, staff and administrators – including representatives from Penn State Harrisburg – are contributing to the 16 task groups that are developing Penn State’s “Back to State” plans. The overarching goal is to continue Penn State’s research and educational mission while providing for the physical and psychological health and well-being of all students, faculty and staff.

To guide Penn State Harrisburg’s implementation of the University’s return plans, the college has established a Return to Campus Core Team and six support teams focused on the following areas: health, services, employees, students, academics, campus buildings/space, and financial matters. Their work will continue throughout the summer.

“As we prepare for the fall semester, we are operating with the health and safety of our community as our top priority. We have learned a great deal over the past few months and that knowledge helps to inform our actions in moving forward,” said Chancellor John M. Mason. “Our success will be greatly impacted by the actions that each and every one of us takes in adhering to all of the public health guidelines to help mitigate any spread of the coronavirus to our campus community and to the local communities surrounding us.”

Campus-based residential instruction is scheduled to end Friday, Nov. 20, with the remainder of the semester, including final examinations, to be delivered remotely when classes resume after Thanksgiving break. The semester will end following finals on Friday, Dec. 18.

Penn State Harrisburg employees will return to campus in a phased approach, beginning with those who are preparing the campus for the return of students in the fall. At this time, all employees who are currently working remotely should continue to do so until advised differently by their supervisor.

Admissions visits and open-house programs will continue to be held virtually for all prospective students. See our Visit Us page to learn more.

Comprehensive prevention and public health procedures will be in place when classes resume – including testing, contact tracing, required mask-wearing, social distancing and, if needed, quarantine space. The University’s Office of Student Conduct and Human Resources have developed strategies to both encourage and enforce these measures, which will help protect the health of the campus community and those who live in the surrounding area.

“Scientists explain that COVID-19 is mainly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze. It is thought that the virus may spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose or mouth, causing infection. Therefore, personal prevention practices – such as handwashing, mask-wearing, social distancing, and staying home when sick -- and environmental prevention practices, such as enhancing air quality and cleaning and disinfection, are important principles that we are addressing as we prepare the campus for the fall semester,” said Todd Camp, senior director of business services and operations.

Modifications to the campus and instructional environment will include:

  • Limited seating in classrooms and labs, to continue social distancing.
  • The addition of temporary classroom space, if needed.
  • Remote delivery of any class with more than 100 students.
  • A combination of in-person, remote and hybrid instruction, with accommodations made for students who miss class due to illness.
  •  Implementation of the University’s return-to-research protocols to maintain social distancing and other safety measures in all research labs.
  • Creation of “zoom lounges” -- areas with strong Wi-Fi connections where individuals can sit to virtually attend classes or do work with social distancing and mask wearing enforced.
  • Upgraded air filtration system and portable air sanitizers to clean air in indoor spaces.
  • Use of CDC recommended cleaning materials to disinfect high touch surfaces on a regular basis.
  • Installation of magnetic door hold opens for stairways, where feasible.
  • Conversion of 20 water fountains to touch free handwashing stations.
  • Placement of 170 hand sanitizer stations throughout campus, with a focus on high traffic areas.
  • Installation of Plexiglas barriers in some high-traffic common areas (library counter, food service checkout), and a reconfiguration of some workspaces to minimize close in-person contact in offices.
  • High-visibility placement of safety and directional signage across campus.

More information will be released throughout the summer. Visit the university's Coronavirus Information website for the latest updates and information on Penn State’s response to the pandemic, including an extensive FAQ and information specific for students, faculty and staff. For information specific to Penn State Harrisburg, visit our campus-specific coronavirus page.