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Thorough safety measures inform college’s fall reopening plan

With a focused eye toward honoring its reputation for hands-on instruction, all the while abiding by up-to-the-minute advice from government and health experts, Pennsylvania College of Technology will fully reopen for the fall semester on Aug. 17 with in-person instruction.

“We stand ready to recommit to the pivotal role our institution plays in delivering STEM education, partnering with business and industry, and producing the highly skilled ‘tomorrow makers’ needed for essential occupations in Pennsylvania and beyond,” college President Davie Jane Gilmour said.

The president and other college administrators held a series of virtual “town hall” meetings on July 20-21 for students and their families, faculty, and staff, answering questions about the comprehensive and collaborative procedures in place to balance the institution’s moral, ethical and professional obligations in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We continue to have a moral obligation to safeguard our students, faculty, staff and visitors from the spread of coronavirus,” said Michael J. Reed, vice president for academic affairs and provost. “At the same time, we have an ethical obligation to our students to provide them with the best possible educational outcomes, and a professional obligation to employers to deliver the highly skilled graduates the workforce demands.”

Factors that will help Penn College mitigate risk while delivering on its mission-driven promise include a rural location that affords a higher level of protection than colleges in metropolitan settings; a campus/physical plant allowing for more optimal spacing of instructional spaces and offices; expansive labs and small average class sizes (16) facilitating social distancing; and blended coursework offering scheduling and spacing flexibility.

Guidelines, resources and other relevant information have been shared with students, parents, faculty and staff, and abundant signage and messaging have been placed across campus – including such slogans as “Tomorrow is in your hands, wash them!” – in advance of the new academic year.

Among the many precautions are: masking requirements for students, employees and visitors; reconfiguration of instructional and other spaces to enhance social distancing (with masking required in places where social distancing cannot consistently occur); restrictions on large gatherings; and ample cleaning supplies and protocols to protect against the pandemic.

Acknowledging the possibility that a member, or members, of the campus community will be exposed, the college (and its backyard partner, UPMC Susquehanna) stand fully prepared with robust resources for testing and contact tracing, as well as facilities for quarantine and isolation. 

The college’s vigorous commitment to safety has been validated in recent weeks, as small groups of students returned to finish in-person requirements left unfulfilled when the Spring 2020 semester was cut short by a precautionary shutdown.

The talent and resourcefulness of the college’s faculty and staff, on display during the abrupt shift to remote learning in March, proves that no challenge is too large in preparing graduates for their place in the working world.

“We are obligated to do our best to keep everybody in our Penn College community safe. When you think about what we’ve already done, it’s nothing short of extraordinary,” Gilmour remarked to students and employees alike. “We’re going to do everything we can to get all of you to make a commitment to help us keep our campus safe. You’re the people who are going to help us stay open and stay true to our mission.”

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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