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Penn State Harrisburg, other campuses extend online classes through end of spring semester

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Penn State University has extended through the end of the spring semester delivering all class instruction remotely using the Internet, because of ongoing concerns related to the “growing coronavirus pandemic,” the university announced today.

Semester exams also will be given remotely, and spring commencement ceremonies will be postponed “while the university explores options for celebrating the achievements of our students,” the university said.

“Graduation is a significant milestone for our students, and while it may not be the same as our traditional ceremony, we are committed to finding the best way possible to recognize the achievements of our graduates,” said university President Eric J. Barron. “However, as the world works together to slow the spread of COVID-19, these decisions must be made with public health at the forefront along with the health and wellness of our students, faculty, staff, their families, and our local communities.”

Barron announced March 11 that starting March 16 all classes would be delivered remotely until at least April 6.

In today’s announcement, the university said extending that until the end of the semester is “based on evolving federal guidance” — noting the federal government’s recommendation against all gatherings of 10 or more people — and “statewide mitigation plans announced by Gov. Tom Wolf around the growing coronavirus pandemic and the global efforts underway to stop its spread.”

Barron’s March 11 announcement had also “strongly discouraged” students who were already off-campus for spring break from returning to any university campuses, including Penn State Harrisburg — second largest only to University Park — when spring break ended March 14.

In today’s announcement, Penn State said the university will “soon” announce a schedule for when all students can return to their respective campus in order “to move out” of their on-campus residence hall.

Students will not have access to their on-campus residence until receiving specific information and detailed instructions regarding the schedule for returning, the university. This restriction to access is “critical” to the university creating “as much social distancing as possible” and to “maintain a low level of exposure risk to our students” as well as to surrounding local communities.

“The university will also work with local authorities, landlords, and student leaders, where we can, to develop strategies to minimize the impact of students returning to our communities to retrieve personal belongings,” Barron said. “We encourage all students to be patient as they await further guidance and support.”

The release added that “there will be other questions about room and board refunds, on-campus jobs, internships, research projects and many other topics. University leadership is working on these issues, and more information will be forthcoming soon.”

On Monday the university announced it was planning to provide pro-rated reimbursements for housing and meal plans to students who are being inconvenienced and/or impacted financially due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 virus situation.

Specifics on that reimbursement, such as how much and the form it is to take, have not yet been announced by the university.