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Bracing for return of PSU students

Centre commissioners address concerns

BELLEFONTE — With Penn State students poised to stream back into Centre County in the coming weeks, the Centre County Board of Commissioners addressed some concerns at Tuesday’s meeting.

More than 30,000 students will be converging on Penn State’s University Park Campus. Penn State is doing staggered move-ins from Monday, Aug. 17 through Sunday, Aug. 23. The first day of classes for students is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 24.

“It’s ambitious,” Commissioner chair Michael Pipe said. “I know that many people in the community still have questions about once students arrive … what that’s going to look like? Once students are symptomatic, what that’s going to look like?”

Penn State has issued guidelines for students returning to campus. Before returning to Penn State, all undergraduate and graduate students at every campus location must:

— Read and sign the new required “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” that outlines expectations for the semester.

— Complete mandatory pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, if notified. Select students living in counties across the United States with high infection rates will be contacted by the university on an individual basis in August to complete mandatory testing.

— Self-quarantine for at least seven days immediately prior to arrival.

— Review Penn State and local requirements for masking and social distancing.

— Students who are already living on campus or have moved in to off-campus housing should also complete the above steps before the start of classes.

“We are looking forward to welcoming all of our students back to our campuses this fall. While this will be a different kind of semester than any we have experienced before, these criteria have been developed to support the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and community members in accordance with public health guidance and our own infectious disease specialists,” said Penn State President Eric Barron said in a release. “We know our students want to do their part to not only help reduce transmission of the virus within the community, but also to increase our chances and ability of remaining on campus for the semester. These are concrete steps students must take as Penn Staters to do their parts.”

Pipe said that the commissioners are in constant talks with the university.

“We’re taking it day by day. They laid out their plan and we’re still in conversations with them about how we can assist with contact tracing and we will have those ongoing conversations,” Pipe said.

Campus-based instruction will end on Friday, Nov. 20. Students will finish the semester, including final exams, remotely when the semester resumes on Nov. 30 following Thanksgiving. The fall semester will end as planned on Friday, Dec. 18.

Pipe said that Centre County is not alone. Plenty of communities throughout the United States are dealing with the re-opening of college campuses.

“If you look at all universities, all colleges across the country, I think many are calling what they’re trying to do ambitious,” Pipe said. “We’ll work with them as best we can.”

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