Frequently asked questions about returning to campus.
This website will continue to serve as a resource for our faculty during the global coronavirus pandemic. It will be updated regularly with critical information and links to key resources.
What will the return to campus for the summer and fall 2021 semesters look like?
Penn State is planning a phased return over the summer semester to a full on-campus learning environment for fall 2021. The University’s priorities continue to be the health and well-being of its students, faculty, staff and local communities, and the plans for expanded in-person classes have the flexibility built in to quickly respond to changing pandemic conditions, if necessary.
The summer semester will again use Penn State's COVID-19 instructional modes, but will maximize the number of in-person courses based on space utilization, including continued use of non-traditional spaces for instruction and the public health guidance at the time. In addition to in-person courses there will be some remote options, both synchronous and asynchronous.
The fall semester will more closely resemble Penn State’s in-person instructional experience, while continuing to offer a full range of web classes. Classes will be scheduled using the University’s non-COVID modes of instruction.
Do we need to wear masks and maintain social distancing when returning to campus?
Students, employees and visitors are required to practice social distancing and wear face masks/coverings when inside campus buildings, including in classrooms, labs, offices, and other public spaces. Additionally, the University is expecting that individuals also will wear a mask when outdoors on campus and in the community.
Masks with exhaust valves are NOT ACCEPTABLE.
To aid in this effort, the University purchased 500,000 masks to be distributed across all campuses for people who need them.
In addition, students will be expected to social distance, keeping six feet between themselves and other students when in classrooms, common areas, study spaces and other shared locations and avoid large gatherings while on campus as well as in their local communities in line with local and state requirements.
Some of these spaces on campus, such as the cafeteria, classrooms and library have been reconfigured in order to accommodate the social distancing directive.
Are there penalties for students, faculty or staff who don't follow campus safety and health guidelines?
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus and support a healthy return to living and taking classes on campus, all students and employees have a personal and collective responsibility to follow guidelines from the University, which are aligned with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health.
While we expect high levels of compliance, non-adherence to these guidelines in a way that elevates exposure and risk for others in the community will be addressed in a manner consistent with how other violations of University guidelines and policies are managed.
What if I have an at-risk student or have a student who starts to feel sick?
Faculty are expected to be flexible in their interpretation and management of in-person class attendance so that sick students can stay home, and the University will work with immunocompromised and other at-risk students to develop appropriate accommodations.
For students who are unable to return to any campus this fall, there are flexible options so that they can continue to make progress toward their degrees.
Penn State is focused on supporting students and helping them to meet their desired educational outcomes no matter the method of delivery, and advisers will be available to assist students on crafting their individual class schedules and curricula options.
If students have visible flu-like symptoms in a face-to-face class setting, are instructors able to ask them to leave?
If a student is exhibiting symptoms in a classroom, the instructor is empowered to ask the student to leave the class and to see a health care provider. The student should not return to class until they are no longer exhibiting symptoms or have been cleared by a health care provider and can provide proof of clearance to the instructor. If the student refuses to leave, the instructor should follow the guidance in the classroom guidance document.
I received a notification letter from Student Support Services stating that a student will be unable to attend class in-person. Why does this date range not match the length of Penn State’s quarantine and isolation requirements?
The length of time listed in the notification letter depends on many factors, including when contact tracers got in touch with the student and when the student’s symptoms began. Contact tracers, based on the student’s report, identify the time frame during which a student must isolate or quarantine and then make a referral to Student Support Services to complete the faculty notification. There can be a day or two of ‘lag time’ between when a contact tracer speaks with a student and when the notifications are sent to faculty. A student may have been instructed to isolate on 9/22, for example, but the faculty notification letter is not sent until 9/24.
For asymptomatic students who test positive, the 10 days’ isolation begins from the date on which the student was tested, but Penn State receives the test results a couple days later. Because asymptomatic students are not asked to isolate until they have a positive result, the timeframe for faculty notifications in these cases will always be less than 10 days.
Other students have symptoms, wait a day or two to get tested, get a positive test result, and when contact tracers speak with the student, the student indicates that they have already been isolating for 5 days. In these situations, Student Support Services will often indicate the day the student started to isolate in the letter. Finally, students identified as a “close contact” who need to quarantine will rarely quarantine for a full 14 days because typically, contact tracers do not talk to the student on the day on which they had their last contact with the positive individual.
In summary, the fact that the time frame on the notification letters is sometimes less than 10 or 14 days is an indicator of how long ago the student was exposed or tested positive, and of the lag time between the quarantine/isolation dates being determined and the faculty notification letter being sent.
Will Penn State be testing students and employees for coronavirus?
The University is employing strategies to create an effective detection and management system for all of its campuses, including testing, contact tracing, and monitoring and reacting to trends in data at the community and national levels.
A COVID-19 pre-arrival testing program has been put in place by the University for students at campuses in “hot spots” -- areas where there have been high numbers of cases reported. At the present time, Penn State Scranton is NOT identified as one of those campuses.
Learn details on what to do if you are selected for pre-arrival testing, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.
Will there be COVID-19 testing during the semester?
On Feb. 25 and 26, 2021 Penn State Scranton tested close to 700 students for Covid-19, with ZERO positive results reported.
With the conclusion of the required universal COVID-19 testing period, Penn State resumed testing of its on-campus students and employees on Monday, March 1 as part of the University’s spring 2021 student testing strategy.
Who is eligible to be tested via Penn State’s on-demand testing and random screening programs?
University Health Services provides appointment-based, "on-demand" testing for students who have COVID-19 related health issues. The information for students is found at https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/health/myuhs.
Both students and employees may be selected by the University for random screening as part of the University’s ongoing surveillance testing program. Students and employees will be provided with instructions via email about where to go for this testing when they are selected.
For Commonwealth Campus students and employees, random screening is being conducted by Vault Health. Individuals selected for random screening will receive an email that includes specific directions on next steps. It is important that selected individuals register for their test within 48 hours of receiving the email and then complete their test within 48 hours of having the test kit in hand.
On-demand testing for students of the Commonwealth Campuses is being conducted by Quest. Symptomatic students should contact their campus health center or testing contact to obtain directions on how to obtain a test kit.
Will faculty be required to have their temperature taken before attending class?
As part of the Penn State Go app, the University will be rolling out a COVID-19 symptom checker as another resource in which all members of the University community can check symptoms they may be having and receive instructions for how to proceed. The app also will contain updated information about CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health resources and helpful information, such as dining arrangements.
The University expects students to self-monitor their health, including for example by taking their temperature before going to class or campus. While fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, it is only one of the potential symptoms individuals may have. If you have a temperature or symptoms of feeling sick, individuals should reach out to their health care provider.
Will faculty and staff be required to sign a compact or waiver similar to the student compact?
No, Penn State employees are not required to sign a waiver or compact. Some faculty who enter LionPATH through Self-Service, rather than through the Faculty Center or Home Base, may see the Compact, but they do not have to sign it. If you have any Compact-related questions, please contact [email protected].
I know that I, and everyone in my class, is required to wear a mask at all times. How do I find information on the best type of mask for my teaching situation?
The task group on Instruction, Universal Masking and PPE Recommendations has just released an updated report that provides guidance on different types of masks and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in a wide range of instructional settings to ensure the safety of our faculty, staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The task group further sought to balance the need for an instructor to be heard intelligibly for in-person instruction while also being mindful that students may be participating through the remote environment, made recommendations regarding the accommodation of disabilities, and examined different instructional settings ranging from traditional classrooms to laboratories and performance spaces. The full report and detailed recommendations are available here.
Will the University provide information to faculty if a student in their class has a confirmed case of COVID-19?
Penn State will conduct contact tracing for faculty, staff, and students who test positive or are presumed positive for COVID-19. When a student tests positive for COVID-19, an email notification will be sent to faculty teaching in-person classes that mentions dates when the student cannot attend class due to a medical reason. When the student gives permission to share that they have tested positive for COVID-19 or are in quarantine as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, the University will do so. In addition, the University will notify faculty teaching remote courses to assist with appropriate academic accommodations as needed, and a notification will be sent to confirm when a student can return to class.
When physical distancing is maintained in class, the faculty member and fellow students are not considered to be close contacts of a positive/presumed positive case and will not need to quarantine due to being in class together. An exception to this may be in a lab or other experiential environment where students are working together. In these cases, faculty should have students working in teams/pods that maintain physical distance from the other groups.
What do I do if a student who will be unable to participate for a period of time requests make-up work?
You may provide traditional make-up assignments (e.g., provide slides, offer office hour appointments, extend due dates, etc.) appropriate for the course and its designated delivery mode. Policy 42-27 on Class Attendance states, “Instructors also should provide, within reason, the opportunity to make up work for students who miss classes for other legitimate but unavoidable reasons. … it should be recognized that not all work can be ‘made-up’ and that absences can affect student performance in a class.”
Consider asking if the student is unable to participate in the whole course or in certain elements (e.g., cannot attend in-person sessions but can complete assignments on time). Try to identify simple ways to provide access to the elements that the student will miss, so there will be no need for make-up work. Instructors are not asked to create alternate ways to deliver course material; rather, they are asked to provide flexibility, within reason, on how students might achieve learning outcomes to students who unexpectedly cannot participate in part or all of a course for a period of time.
LATEST NEWS OF IMPORTANCE TO FACULTY
- Several new FAQs pertaining to promotion and tenure were added to the 2020-2021 Promotion and Tenure FAQ document to provide guidance about processes in the midst of the pandemic. Please see FAQs #68, 70, and 71 for updated information about peer teaching reviews, an updated charge to the committee, and virtual meetings.
- Please check Penn State’s COVID-19 dashboard for the latest on-demand testing and random screening results.
- While the overwhelming majority of students have and continue to comply with Penn State’s health and safety policies related to COVID-19, Penn State’s Office of Student Conduct has responded to a number of reported violations. Since Aug. 17, the University has issued 1,277 sanctions for violation of various COVID-19-related restrictions and policies, including refusal to wear a mask or face covering in public, non-adherence to Penn State’s quarantine/isolation guidelines, and failure to observe guidance that strictly moderates gatherings both on and off campus.
- Information for faculty about virtual study groups is available here. Students who regularly participate in study groups may earn higher grades than they would studying alone, and tend to be more actively involved in their courses.
KEY REMINDERS FOR FACULTY
- Two contact tracing student referral forms are now available; one allows students to self-report concerns and the other allows individuals to refer students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who may have been exposed.
- The flexible instructional modes developed for the fall 2020 semester, along with limited classroom capacities, will remain in place at all Penn State campuses in spring 2021, provided that the public health landscape allows for some in-person instruction.
- Faculty and staff are encouraged to report student progress in Starfish to allow for a collaborative and proactive approach to assisting undergraduates. At a time when many students are learning remotely, Starfish is the central place for instructors to document and share the successes or challenges a student may be encountering in a course. It gives instructors the ability to note areas of concern, like whether they believe their students have reliable access to technology; and other important indicators of student progress, such as absences or inadequate class participation or completion of assignments.
- Faculty can still submit questions related to Penn State’s plans for a return to classrooms in the fall. Questions may be submitted here.
Mentoring March – A Workshop Series for Faculty Mentoring Graduate Students:
Effective mentoring is an invaluable component of graduate students’ success, and is even more important and challenging during the pandemic, which has introduced even more complexity into developing and maintaining strong mentoring relationships.
- Aligning Expectations, Thursday, March 11, 12:30–1:30 p.m.
- Addressing Equity and Inclusion, Thursday, March 25, 12:30–1:30 p.m.
- The Keep Teaching website has updated Return to Resident Instruction guidance, a new webinar series for faculty, and many new and updated FAQs.
The following is a new site for the Commonwealth Faculty Development with valuable webinars, information and resources.
- Penn State faculty are encouraged to continue submitting questions via this online form so leadership can respond to them in upcoming communications.
- The University’s comprehensive “Back to State” page
- Penn State’s Keep Teaching and Keep Working websites
- The online archive of video messages from Penn State leaders and experts on pandemic-related news stories
- The Office of Human Resources COVID-19 information site and Return to Work on Campus
- The University Measures
- The University’s health information page
- Information for Faculty Researchers
- University contacts and resources for the community
- Social Science Research Institute website featuring pandemic-related insights from University experts and other resources
Updated on March 5, 2021