Pennsylvania State University will not proceed with in-person classes for the beginning of the upcoming spring semester. Instead, a temporary transition to remote learning will be enforced at all campus locations. 

Classes will be held online from January 19 until February 12 while in-person classes are set to resume on February 15. 

Penn State finalized this decision after monitoring national and local COVID-19 trends which indicated a possible rise of cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks. University leaders also consulted with state health officials, medical experts, and the Board of Trustees, noting that the decision abided by official recommendations from Pennsylvania’s departments of Education and Health.

“While we know this creates a number of challenges for our community, we are very concerned with the current outlook across the country and the commonwealth and believe this is the most responsible way to begin our semester,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron.

“Shifting to a remote start has been a scenario we have been preparing for by building flexibility into every level of our operations in order to prioritize our students’ academic achievement,” he added.

Specific Plans

While students are discouraged from going to campus and off-campus housing during the four-week period of online classes, there are certain exceptions. 

Those who are studying in select professional programs may enter their campuses but will be contacted by their academic leaders and must be tested before arrival. University campuses are also open for faculty and staff members; however, those who are currently telecommuting must continue to do so.

Penn State will also implement a comprehensive testing strategy that will require all students to be tested prior to arrival. In addition, the school will require post-arrival testing within the first two weeks of the semester, on-demand testing for students and employees, and random daily surveillance testing of at least 1.5 to 2 percent of the on-campus population.

The school noted that restricting students from immediately returning to campus will protect the university and neighboring communities. It will also give healthcare workers time “to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and help protect personnel” that work on and off the campuses.

Additional colleges and universities have also re-assessed their plans, considering it safer to delay the start of the spring semester. Temple University and the University of Pittsburgh will move the start of classes to January 19 while Carnegie Mellon University and Gettysburg College will delay the beginning of their semester until February 1.