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Introduction

The spread of COVID-19 disrupted the core operations of more than 300 postsecondary institutions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (PA). These institutions were forced to scale down non-life sustaining operations and make a sudden pivot to distance and remote delivery of instruction to ensure continued learning for students. The field responded commendably to the aggressive mitigation efforts of the commonwealth and prioritized the health and safety of their students, faculty, and staff over continued routine operations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) recognizes the role that postsecondary institutions play in the educational, economic, and social well-being of the commonwealth and is committed to supporting institutions as they transition back to in-person instruction while putting measures in place to protect their campus communities. PDE further recognizes that any determinations made about instruction, regardless of the modality, must acknowledge the interconnectedness of learning with the variety of operations, services, and activities that occur on campus. This includes the need for residential and student life facilities conducive to creating healthy, safe, and inclusive learning environments.

With this commitment in mind, PDE has developed guidance for safely resuming in-person instruction at colleges, universities, seminaries, trade schools, and adult basic education programs across PA. It considers the diversity of providers in the postsecondary sector and allows local, institution-led response teams to develop and coordinate each institution’s unique path forward. The guidance includes general considerations to support healthy, safe, and inclusive learning environments when resuming in-person instruction, operations, services, and activities. Institutions should carefully review this guidance and determine the best strategies for their campus community.

This preliminary guidance is informed by what is currently known about COVID-19 and incorporates existing federal and state public health and safety recommendations directed at postsecondary institutions. It should also be noted that this guidance may change as new information becomes available. Lastly, it is imperative to point out that the PA guidance was informed by input and feedback from institutional leaders representing all sectors and regions of the commonwealth’s postsecondary landscape.