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Healthy Lutes / June update on Fall 2020 planning

Posted by:
June 26, 2020

To: Students and Families
From: Office of the President

Opening message from Allan

This week, I had the honor of joining Washington Governor Jay Inslee and representing the Independent Colleges of Washington in announcing our state’s return to campus guidelines for the fall.

This plan will allow universities like PLU to safely return to in-person classroom instruction, lectures, and similar educational gatherings after August 1st, independent of the four-phase safe-return plan announced back in May. PLU has been intricately involved in developing this comprehensive plan that ensures the safety and security of students, faculty, and staff.

Today, I am happy to announce the major components of PLU’s plan to welcome you back. These are updates reflecting the planning being done all over campus by staff and faculty who are dedicating their summer to this vital work. We will continue to update you throughout the 10 weeks that remain before the start of classes.

As we work for the collective care and well-being of our Lute community and neighbors, we know this — no matter if we are on campus, learning from a distance, masked up, or whatever the challenge — we are PLU together.

Return to Learning on Campus

  • As part of the University’s ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, all students, faculty, and staff are required to complete a daily health-screening attestation. This simple attestation must be taken daily when you expect to be participating (on-campus or virtually) in university activities, including classes, work, dining, social events, and athletics and recreation.
  • The PLU Return to Learning on Campus Guide was designed to provide students with the information they need to safely resume in-person learning at PLU. Please familiarize yourself with this guide prior to your arrival on campus. The guide will be updated as public-health guidance for higher education changes, and we encourage you to check the coronavirus update webpage for updates on a regular basis.
  • The 2020-2021 academic calendar includes important dates, such as the first day of class (Tuesday, September 8), breaks, and finals. We’ll continue to assess the period following Thanksgiving break: we know that instruction will continue and that final exams will proceed as scheduled, but we are conferring with public-health authorities to determine the right teaching modality. Expect a decision by August 1st.

Covering, cleaning, and distancing

  • Face masks will be required, per the State of Washington’s COVID-19 safety requirements. For example, you can expect to wear face coverings on campus this fall in class and during meetings—essentially, in any building and outdoor setting on campus, except in instances in which you are able to maintain appropriate physical distancing. PLU will provide a cloth face covering to every student in addition to the ones you bring from home. PLU will also provide disposable face coverings for visitors, vendors, or others without access to a face covering.
  • Maintaining safe physical distancing in most settings is a critical step in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Physical-distancing policies are in place across campus and in most contexts. These expectations will apply to all office spaces, in-person classes, official activities and events, uses of residence-hall common spaces, and meetings. Room and venue occupancy limits are being adjusted accordingly. Physical distancing will also be encouraged for all activities.
  • Custodial crews will continue to abide by enhanced cleaning protocols, particularly in high-traffic and shared areas. In some settings, students and employees will be asked to use provided supplies to clean their work areas, classroom desks, or computer stations before departing.

Screening, testing and tracing

  • Students exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will have access to no-cost testing at the Health Center.
  • Should it be necessary, the Health Center — with assistance from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department — will conduct contact tracing of students.
  • PLU will have isolation rooms set aside for quarantining students. If more rooms are needed, PLU is also partnering with the Pierce County COVID-19 Temporary Care Center to house any additional medically stable students requiring isolation.

Members of vulnerable populations

As we prepare for our return to campus, we recognize that some students’ personal health circumstances may make remote learning a more appropriate option for them. If for health reasons you need to participate in classes through a completely remote modality, please contact the Office of Accessibility and Accommodation (oaa@plu.edu) by July 15th to schedule a meeting to arrange accommodations.


Telemedicine and remote-care services can be critical in the safe management of COVID-19. Accordingly, LuteTelehealth is here for students in the summer. LuteTelehealth provides 24/7 access for medical and mental-health support, via both on-demand and scheduled appointments.

Safe classroom design and flexible courses

  • Our goal is to provide an in-person learning experience, as safely as possible, for as many students as we can. Students’ learning experiences will likely include on-campus classes, blended classes, and some remote classes, a mix designed to maximize opportunities for in-person learning while prioritizing community well-being.
  • Teaching spaces will be configured to align with physical-distancing requirements, and faculty and students will use personal protective equipment appropriate for each learning activity. In most cases, this will take the form of face coverings, but for some classes, face shields and gloves may also be utilized. Each classroom will have a cleaning/disinfectant kit for students to use, prior to and after their use of any shared equipment.
  • Larger spaces traditionally used for events and performances will be adapted for classroom use to allow physical distancing in classes with larger student enrollments.
  • Reflecting our mission of care for community, we are also accommodating those members of our faculty whose personal circumstances make remote teaching the best option for them. Students who registered for Fall 2020 classes that will be shifted to a remote modality will be notified by early August.

Housing and dining

  • Living on campus remains an important part of the PLU experience for many students, and, like most of the college-going experience this upcoming academic year, it is going to look and feel different than it has in the recent past. Refer to the Residential Life Approach to COVID-19 webpages for more information.
  • Physical distancing in residential living will be maximized by increasing the number of single-living options available and spreading them across all nine residence halls, although approximately 60% of students living on campus will have roommates in the fall. Students living together in the same room or apartment will be considered a family unit, which removes the requirement of wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing within the shared space.
  • To assist us in managing residence hall density, there has been a temporary loosening of restrictions related to the University Residency Requirement. Any student interested in pursuing this option should follow the process outlined here.
  • Should a resident experience a change in their individual or family circumstances, causing them to make the decision to shift to remote learning only and cancel their housing, they will receive a prorated refund of housing charges and be able to request an exemption from the cancellation penalty. If, in consultation with state and local health authorities, we make the difficult decision to move to remote learning through the end of the term, residents will be expected to depart from campus and would receive a prorated refund with no cancellation penalty. In this eventuality, students requiring housing will be able to request to remain (with the original housing contract intact.)
  • Meal plans will be available on a declining-balance basis only, and balances will be carried over to the spring term. The “all-you-care-to-eat” option will not be available. Menus and station concepts have been expanded to provide a wider variety of options, and self-service areas have been replaced with full-service menu options. Operating hours in the Commons will be adjusted to provide greater flexibility while decreasing density. Online ordering, using the PLU GET Mobile app, will be utilized to reduce lines.

PLU athletics and recreation

The NCAA and the Northwest Conference are currently working on plans to resume competitive athletics this fall. Coaches will contact their players regarding specific details and schedules. Since athletic competition will, in most cases, reduce the ability to physically distance and utilize face coverings, increased surveillance testing may be necessary for athletes. Such testing will be done at the University’s expense and in coordination with local public-health resources.

This global pandemic does not follow a calendar or syllabus. However, we do know that the comprehensive planning we are doing now will ensure that we are prepared for any possible combination of variables this fall.

Thank you again to our PLU community members who are dedicating their summers to this vital work.

In community,