Muhlenberg Announces Plans for Fall 2020 Semester

The strategy outlined by the College includes plans to resume on-campus instruction on August 24.

By: Bill Keller  Tuesday, July 7, 2020 01:27 PM

The plan, shaped by advice and research conducted by a Fall Planning Committee convened in the spring, is informed by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other national public health experts, guidance and regulations from Pennsylvania health officials and recommendations from local health care networks, the Allentown Health Bureau and College public health experts. The initial details were made available to the Muhlenberg community on June 24.

The plan prioritizes the health and safety of students, faculty and staff and aligns with the College’s residential liberal arts mission. By necessity, the strategy is designed to be flexible and adaptable to account for potential changes at the local, state and national level in response to a continuously evolving COVID-19 landscape.

The Fall 2020 semester will begin one week earlier than originally planned, with classes starting on Monday, August 24. To minimize the risk of students contracting COVID-19 at home or during travel, the College will not have a fall break, and on-campus instruction will end Friday, November 20 and be followed by a week-long break prior to Thanksgiving. Classes will resume virtually on Monday, November 30, with final exams scheduled for the week of December 7.

The College announced that a detailed semester calendar is in development and will take into account potential changes for the Spring 2021 semester as well.

In a statement, President Kathleen Harring said, "The complexities of this situation are unlike any that colleges and universities have experienced in the past. Thus, our planning required thoughtful, evidence-based decision-making and careful consideration of all factors involved in reopening campus."

The College has already put in place several preventative measures consistent with the state guidance on reopening colleges and universities. Muhlenberg staff are completing the installation of hands-free bathroom fixtures, and signs and floor markings are being placed around campus to remind community members of physical distancing practices. Plexiglass dividers are being placed in high-traffic areas, and extensive cleaning and disinfecting protocols are in effect.

When students, faculty and staff begin to return to campus, each person will be required to wear a mask and adhere to handwashing and physical distancing protocols. Individuals with medical conditions that inhibit use of a mask will be offered alternative solutions. The College is finalizing protocols for testing, contact tracing and daily health monitoring.

Courses will be offered in a variety of formats, including in-person with physical distancing practices, a hybrid model that offers both in-person and online instruction and fully remote learning. College faculty will complete an intense digital learning program this summer that helps them develop classes that take into account the ways in which students best learn in digital environments.

The College is committed to ensuring that life outside the classroom remains both vibrant and safe. Many campus events, such as lectures, presentations and meetings, will occur virtually. Muhlenberg and the other colleges in the Centennial Conference expect to learn of a decision about the fall athletic season in July. 

The College is working with students and families to finalize housing and fall registration details. In addition to further developing the plan to support each student’s needs, the College will hold a series of webinars throughout the month of July to answer student and family questions on a variety of topics, including health and safety, housing and residence life, academic life and extracurriculars and activities.

About Muhlenberg College
Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg is a highly selective, private, four-year residential, liberal arts college offering baccalaureate and graduate programs. With an enrollment of approximately 2,200 students, Muhlenberg College is dedicated to shaping creative, compassionate, collaborative leaders through rigorous academic programs in the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences; selected preprofessional programs, including accounting, business, education and public health; and progressive workforce-focused post-baccalaureate certificates and master’s degrees. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, approximately 90 miles west of New York City, Muhlenberg is a member of the Centennial Conference, competing in 22 varsity sports. Muhlenberg is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.