July update on Fall 2020 planning
TO: All students and families
FROM: President’s Office
Dear students and families,
If you’ve been tracking the cases here in Pierce County, you know that our local community, like our country, is still struggling to curb the spread of the coronavirus. You are also seeing some colleges and school districts make public their decisions to shift to remote-learning. While we plan for return to campus in September, we are acutely aware that continuing growth in infection rates or directives from health authorities may require that we adjust our plans for a full return to campus.
Last month, Governor Inslee outlined the steps that would be necessary for higher education to resume in-person instruction beginning August 1. In that guidance, he acknowledged that campuses vary in their ability to respond to the virus and that the decisions that make sense for one campus may not make sense for others.
At PLU, we have worked through most of the challenges the virus presents, from modifying our physical density through classroom schedule alterations and housing policies to analyzing air exchange and circulation rates in all buildings and adjusting our cleaning protocols. The one piece that remains for us to solve is COVID-19 testing, an issue that’s emerged as a challenge in just the past few weeks.
While we have testing capacity through our Health Center, we need to be able to secure sufficient rapid result testing in order to begin in-person learning. If we are unable to do so in the coming weeks, we will announce our alternative return to campus plan no later than August 5. Guided by public-health best-practice guidelines and our commitment to reducing person-to-person contact, the alternative return to campus plan would provide the flexibility necessary for every member of our community to remain engaged and connected.
Here at PLU, staff, faculty members and student leaders have been leveraging their wisdom, talents, and strengths to help ensure that this fall we will provide excellent instruction while keeping our community safe. Thank you to our PLU community members who are dedicating their summer to this vital work.
With just under seven weeks until the first day of fall classes, there is still much planning to be done. We also know that in the next seven weeks the challenges we face will evolve. Please be assured that—no matter the circumstance, no matter the challenges—student and community well-being is our priority, and we will continue to provide you with updates.
We plan to share additional information on current travel-related quarantine and related guidance later today. We will also be sending and requesting information on housing for residential students next week. As always, please check with our Coronavirus Update page for news and details on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are navigating this period of time together and your questions help us focus our energy on the things that matter most to you right now.
As you and I change our collective behaviors by wearing face coverings, washing our hands way more than ever, and maintaining social distancing, we are doing our part to protect ourselves and our community. We are taking these health and safety precautions because we are connected to other Lutes and to their neighbors and loved ones. Self-care is community care, and both have never been more important.
Because the world needs more Lutes,
Classroom and modality changes
As we’ve communicated in earlier messages, our mission calls us to care for one another just as we care for the larger community. In that spirit, students were provided with instructions for opting-in to remote learning last month (see our June 24th email, “Healthy Lutes—June update on Fall 2020 planning” from the Office of the President)—requests we are still happy to honor, despite the original deadline having passed. Similarly, we invited our faculty to teach remotely during Fall 2020 if that modality best aligns with their personal circumstances.
At the same time, our efforts to ensure that students’ classroom experiences include adequate physical distancing and appropriate air exchange resulted in shifting some originally scheduled classroom locations, as well as some course modalities.
What this means is that students who have already registered for classes may see some adjustments in a class location and/or teaching modality (for example, a formerly in-person class now being taught online). The online interactive schedule will be updated no later than mid-August; all students whose courses include modality changes will be contacted by the Center for Student Success in early August.
Travel-related quarantine and testing guidance
In a separate email later today, we will share our expectations specifically for travel-related quarantine and testing guidance for students joining (and re-joining!) our community. Our return plan includes two stages: the pre-arrival period leading up to your return to campus, and the immediate post-return period. In this email, we will outline expectations for these two periods, as well as recommendations for traveling to campus.
Convocation ceremony and the first day of classes
Each year, on the first day of classes, the Centennial bell is rung to announce the arrival of the new class to campus and the beginning of the Convocation ceremony to open the new academic year. Join us for a virtual community Convocation at 9 a.m. on September 8th. Classes will begin at 9:55 a.m. (There are no 8:00 a.m. classes on this day.)
Additional CARES Act funding for students
PLU still has a significant amount of funding from the CARES Act that has not yet been issued to students. Emergency grants from this pool of funds will be available to students in the fall semester. Students can find additional information on the Student Financial Services webpage and can expect to receive more information about how these funds will be distributed at the beginning of the school year.
Art & design, music, and theatre & dance updates
Plans for the fall semester have been in development for the past few months, with faculty and leaders from art & design, music, and theatre & dance working together. All options that we are considering have the safety of our students and faculty as the primary focus.
- National and international discipline-specific research and guidelines regarding the COVID-19 virus and its potential impact on our programs, which the School of Arts and Communication is following.
- Analysis of facilities for physical distancing and effective air circulation.
- Increased risk of COVID-19 infection from droplets and aerosols generated in rehearsals and performances in the performing arts, as well as from the close contact required in studio-based instruction in the visual arts.
Our goal is to have definite discipline-specific plans announced in early August. Information on private music instruction, ensembles, audition information for music ensembles and theatre shows, and other requirements will be announced at that time. No matter the mode of instruction, the School of Arts and Communications remains committed to providing meaningful and engaging experiences for all of our students. Should any requirements for maintaining artistic-achievement awards in any discipline be modified, students can be assured that these decisions will not impact the retention of awards.
On Wednesday, the Northwest Conference Presidents’ Council announced the postponement of competition in the sports of football, soccer, rowing, and volleyball for Fall 2020. Cross country, golf, and tennis will be permitted to continue this fall in accordance with local, state, and federal health directives.
This decision, while surely difficult, is in the best interest of our student-athletes. We applaud the leaders of the Northwest Conference for putting their safety first, and we thank our student-athletes and coaches for their understanding and resilience. This fall, we’ll enjoy rooting for our cross-country, golf, and tennis teams, while looking forward to supporting our soccer, football, volleyball, and other affected teams this coming spring.
Sports practice and other athletics-related activities for all sports at member institutions’ campuses are permitted in accordance with NCAA Division III rules, as well as with institutional and state and local health directives.
We once again highlight that 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.