“Navigating the year ahead will require us all to be creative, flexible, and resolute,” wrote President Gutmann and Penn’s senior leadership in a May 21 message about the planning underway for the Fall 2020 semester and the restoration of research operations in light of the continuing threat from COVID-19. The University’s course was still undetermined as this issue of the Gazette was going to press in early June, but likely will have been set by the time it reaches readers (see Penn’s homepage for the latest information).
Four possible scenarios for instruction, some elements of which could be combined, were being considered: an all-online educational experience; a hybrid of in-person smaller classes (in spaces large enough to allow social distancing) and online larger ones; having in-person instruction end at Thanksgiving and the rest of the semester online; and expanding Summer 2021 course options to give students more flexibility.
Accompanying alterations to campus life being looked at included a “Public Health Social Compact” for mask-wearing, social distancing, and remote work whenever possible; a regular testing program; limitations on travel; reduced occupancy in College Houses and campus high-traffic areas (which would also cut hours to allow for deep cleaning); and a reservations- and/or takeout-based dining program.
While still in development, the path to restoring research operations seemed a bit more straightforward, involving a three-stage phased return, from increasing priority research while still limiting personnel present; to gradually expanding with attention to physical distancing; to full resumption, in all phases continuing with remote work where possible.