Plymouth State continues to prepare to welcome students back to campus this fall in what will be a semester unlike any other in its 149-year history. The University is planning to respond to COVID-19 with a comprehensive evaluation of every aspect of opening, from academics and logistics to health and safety.
“The foundations of this approach include New Hampshire state guidelines for reopening, public health guidelines for supporting higher education on campus, and COVID-19 testing for the campus community,” said President Donald Birx. “The health and safety of the campus community is and will continue to be our highest priority.”
Complete details of current plans are posted to the Fall 2020 Opening Information website.
The fall semester calendar is expected to change significantly. Expanded student move-in will begin 5–7 days before classes start on Monday, August 24. Students residing on campus will be notified when they should arrive and student athletes will be contacted by their coaches. Fall classes will be slated to run through Thursday, November 19, and students will not return to campus until the spring semester begins on January 18, 2021.
Numerous new enhanced health and safety measures are expected to be employed. “Regular testing will be planned for all members of the campus community, including students, faculty, and staff,” says Marlin Collingwood, Vice President for Communications, Enrollment and Student Life. “We also anticipate setting up a system of contact tracing that will be performed in collaboration with state health officials. PSU will be following the most up-to-date recommendations, including requiring the wearing of masks when social distancing isn’t an option, to provide a safe campus environment.”
PSU has been in close contact with both new and returning students, and both have clearly indicated their preference for returning to campus. “Our students want an in-person education and that is what we are intending,” says Director of Admissions Matt Wallace. “While this fall will look different than previous years, we are here for our students to keep them safe and provide the high-quality education that they deserve.”
Plans call for Fall 2020 courses to be offered both in-person and online, as well as via hybrid models. Courses are being redesigned with the flexibility to switch between formats if needed due to potentially changed circumstances as the semester progresses. New larger classrooms and additional interactive technology are among the many recent improvements that are designed to address campus safety while providing efficient teaching and learning strategies.
Director of Student Life Tevis Bryant has been working with student groups to plan a range of activities. “We pioneered new ways of interacting virtually this spring and are continuing our outreach to students this summer,” he says. “Student clubs and organizations are excited to host safe and fun events, whether they be in-person or online, and we have great leadership in student government leading the charge.”
Panthers are also planning to compete in fall sports, which may be restricted in terms of travel and fan attendance. Panther pride, however, will be in full supply. “Athletics could not be more excited to get our student athletes back to campus,” says Director of Athletics Kim Bownes. “Of course, we will have new protocols in place to make the fall sports season happen and things won’t look exactly the same, but our goal is to have a safe and healthy environment that will enable students to play their favorite sports.”
Details regarding PSU’s Fall 2020 reopening plans will continue to be refined through the summer by a task force comprised of a dozen subcommittees. All of the University’s operations are being closely examined by teams of administrators, faculty and staff, and members of the public, and student input will be incorporated as well. Task force updates will be posted online throughout the summer and the website has an area to submit questions and suggestions.