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Penn State Suspends In-Person Classes, Moves to Remote Learning for Three Weeks

by on March 11, 2020 2:34 PM

Penn State announced on Wednesday that it will hold all classes remotely for the next three weeks, joining numerous other colleges and universities around the country that are suspending in-person instruction as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.

The university is currently on spring break, but beginning Monday all classes at all campuses will be delivered online, with in-person classes currently scheduled to resume on April 6. All on-campus student-sponsored events are postponed or canceled through at least April 6.

Undergraduate and graduate students are "strongly discouraged from returning to campus, off-campus locations, and group dwellings (e.g., apartments and fraternities), and should return to, or remain at, home during this time period," Penn State President Eric Barron wrote in a message to the university community.

Campus housing offices will work with international students who are already on campus and students with "extenuating and/or compelling circumstances" on an individual basis for special housing arrangements.

Residence halls and campus dining facilities otherwise will not be open during the remote instruction period. Students who need to retrieve belongings can make special access arrangements through campus housing offices.

Students who do not have access to a computer or the internet at home can contact their campus IT director or email [email protected] at University Park for access to computer labs.

Faculty and students can visit for more information about online instruction.

"The best mechanism for prevention based on advice from experts is social distancing, and unfortunately that is very difficult in a university setting," Barron wrote. "We fully understand these changes will cause disruptions in your day-to-day lives; Penn State’s decision was made out of an abundance of caution and with your health and the well-being of our entire community in mind, and as Pennsylvania is currently under a state of emergency."

Pennsylvania currently has 15 known cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus that was termed a pandemic earlier in the day by the World Health Organization. Throughout the United States, there are currently more than 1,000 cases and 32 deaths from COVID-19. There have been 121,000 cases and 4,300 deaths worldwide attributed to the illness.

"This action represents a significant interruption of normal business practice for our community, not only from a logistical standpoint, but also in the ways we embrace a sense of community, teach our classes, gather together, create new knowledge and share in our differences and similarities," Barron wrote

"However, we know that community infection is a primary mode of transmission and we need to do all we can to protect those around us, including those who may be more at risk or vulnerable to this virus. If there was ever a 'We Are' moment, this is it."

Barron said a virtual town hall will be scheduled for students, faculty and staff to ask questions and hear from university leaders.

Supervisors are being asked to work with staff members whose work can be accomplished outside an office on telecommuting, Barron wrote. Staff also are expected to stay home if they are sick and supervisors were told to be flexible about missed work.

The university will continue to provide updates at

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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