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A quiet fall in Lock Haven

Sad but necessary.

That’s our reaction to Lock Haven University announcing it will not bring a majority of its students back to campus this fall due to risks associated with COVID-19, the coronavirus.

We trust that the university leadership has made the best decision for its students, faculty, staff and the community.

There are some key statements in LHU President Dr. Robert Pignatello’s announcement from earlier this week, starting with this: “Looking at the recent rapid rise in COVID-19 infections across the country, Dr. Pignatello said LHU has reached the consensus that bringing the entire campus community back — approximately 3,500 students, faculty and staff is, “too risky to undertake.”

He went on:

“We are not winning the battle against COVID-19,” Pignatello argued. “Our students come from all parts of Pennsylvania, many from areas where the virus is now surging; they also come from 11 states and seven countries. This reality is of great concern and requires major changes to our operational plan.

“We can do a lot to mitigate the risk, and our original plan did so, but we have concluded that with the entire campus back, we cannot do enough to reduce the risk to our students, faculty and staff and their families, making these revisions necessary.”

While the majority of LHU’s courses will transition to remote delivery, some hands-on and experience-based courses will include face-to-face instruction.

Studio art, labs, clinicals and some first-year-experience courses are among those that will be taught face-to-face with a limited number of students enrolled in these courses.

LHU expects up to 85% of classes to be remote and on campus residency to be two-thirds below the typical level.

Any face-to-face activities and instruction will still end before Thanksgiving on Nov. 20, as previously planned.

What we’re hearing and reading is that students who already signed leases to live in off-campus apartments or homes may be stuck with those leases.

Will they still come to live here and simply learn online?

Or will … rather, can they opt out of the leases?

That should not be the case, as economically challenging as it would be to landlords.

We call on all landlords to be fair.

Also to that end, Dr. Pignatello emphasized that students experiencing hardship and students enrolled in face-to-face courses will be able to apply for on-campus residence by completing a housing exemption form.

In the end, the administration felt the overall risk of contributing to the spread of the disease among students, their families, faculty and staff and the greater community is just too great.

Other risk factors, Dr. Pignatello said, include inadequate testing and contact tracing with test result delays of up to two weeks, the challenge of adequate spacing for face-to-face instruction given existing classroom configurations, the high risk of an in-term outbreak and greater related disruption, the risk involved with high levels of congregate housing, the impact of unmonitored off campus activity and the increased risk to faculty and staff who have either personal or family vulnerabilities.

Students were to formally return the weekend of Aug. 22-23.

It will be pretty darn quiet on campus and in Greater Lock Haven this fall.

What we ALL must do is obvious: Take better precautions to protect ourselves and others from coronavirus, here, across our great state and nation until this scourge is beaten back and defeated.

We have to solve this together, or else.

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