Safely returning to in-person instruction for Fall 2020
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, Aug. 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.
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 Aug. 3, students needing two weeks of makeup, in-person instruction will return to campus.
On Aug. 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.
Finally, on Aug. 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 the Penn College community over the past couple of months about our 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 students, employees and parents throughout this process, and I will respectfully ask for everyone’s compliance with any and all guidelines that we must follow to accomplish our goals. Together, we will persevere.
Davie Jane Gilmour, Ph.D., is president of Pennsylvania College of Technology.