Old main

Old Main at the Penn State campus.

Even though the spring semester has just ended, college leaders across the country are trying to determine the safest way to proceed when classes resume in the fall.

In-class instruction came to an abrupt halt in March as schools turned to remote learning to help contain the spread of COVID-19. 

Many U.S. colleges are planning to reopen in the fall following strict safety guidelines, which include face masks, testing and social distancing in classrooms. The Associated Press reported that class schedules may be staggered, big lectures will be split up or moved online, and some classes could even be taught outside or in tents.

Meanwhile, in California, officials announced that the state’s 23 public universities will not reopen for in-person classes in the fall, fearing a second wave of the virus. Other schools are adjusting the start and finish dates of the semester, the AP says. 

Closer to home, the situation is a little more uncertain.

Penn State hopes to resume in-person classes in the fall, but is preparing to adjust if necessary. One option being explored is resuming activities on some of its campuses while staying online at others. Officials are scheduled to give an update on their plan on June 15.

“We have several action groups working through a variety of scenarios and possibilities, all based on public health guidance, as well as our mission to provide an excellent education to our students,” spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.

Pitt plans to notify families by early July whether there will be in-person classes in the fall, and the 14-college Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which includes IUP, plans to announce its status by the end of June.

“At both the system level and at the individual universities, we’re all looking hard at what’s possible for the fall semester. It’s an ongoing, collaborative process. We have a lot work ahead and nothing right now is final,” said David Pidgeon, a system spokesman.

Juniata College in Huntingdon is preparing to resume in-person classes, and said all faculty and students will be tested for coronavirus before the start of the semester.

Whenever colleges do reopen, campus life may never be the same. From class sizes to dormitories to dining halls, the coronavirus pandemic will be sure to have left and indelible mark on the future of higher education.

Our college leaders face difficult decisions in the upcoming weeks. But we are confident that they will have the health and safety of their students, faculties and staff in mind when determining the future of their institutions.

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