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Policy and Safety Updates Related to Teaching

To help create a safer learning, living and working environment for all students, faculty and staff, Health and Safety Guidelines related to COVID-19 continue to be in effect across Penn State’s campuses in alignment with public health recommendations and Gov. Wolf’s requirements for higher education institutions. Instructors are urged to recheck this site regularly as guidelines may evolve over time. For the most up-to-date information about health guidelines, visit the Penn State Health Guidelines page. For the most up-to-date vaccine information, visit the Penn State Vaccine Information page. At these web sites, you will find Penn State policy and guidance on masking, vaccination, testing, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine, and more.

Here are some of the important things to keep in mind for the upcoming semester:


  • Everyone needs to wear a mask indoors. All students must wear a mask in the classroom. If a student is not wearing a mask, instructors should remind the student of the requirement and ask them to wear a mask, providing one, if necessary. If a student refuses to wear a mask, faculty may ask them to leave the class. If the student refuses to leave class, faculty may dismiss the entire class and report the student to the Office of Student Conduct.
  • Departments should have an inventory of procedure masks available for faculty to take to class. If additional procedure masks are needed or specialty masks (e.g. clear masks for communication classes), departments can consult with HHD’s Pandemic Safety Office, Kevin Kelliher and/or order supplies from General Stores


  • Distancing is not required for classes or other activities. Faculty can encourage distancing where practicable, as it still adds a margin for safety


  • Instructors should not ask students if they are vaccinated or have tested negative for covid. Instructors can encourage students to get vaccinated, to get covid testing regularly, to wear a mask, to practice hand hygiene, etc. Instructors can ask a visibly ill student to leave the class. If the student refuses to leave class, faculty may dismiss the entire class and report the student to the Office of Student Conduct. Penn State is providing vaccination clinics throughout the fall semester, as are community groups:…


  • Students who have not provided proof of vaccination to the university are required to get tested regularly by the University. Students who do not comply will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Illnesses, Isolation, Quarantine, Attendance, and Assignments

  • Instructors should treat students who are ill with covid (or who must quarantine or isolate or take care of family members who are ill) similarly as they would any communicable illness. Encourage students to stay home, and support them in trying to keep up with class assignments. 
  • Students who are ill with covid or who are a close contact of someone who is ill with covid will need to isolate or quarantine, possibly for as long as 2 weeks. At this time, details on faculty notification of such illnesses or contacts has not been provided, so faculty should assume that this may come from the student, as with other illnesses. Although instructors can use their judgment in assessing a student’s illness claim, students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel. Given the challenging circumstances we all face, a generous attendance and assignment make-up policy is encouraged
  • If you will be using attendance as part of your grading, build in opportunities to earn or make-up attendance points through watching recordings, completing discussion questions, participating in discussion boards, or similar exercises. 
  • Faculty may choose to support absent students with opportunities to zoom into class, but they are not required to provide a remote option. Pre-recorded lectures, sharing lecture notes, zoom office hours with faculty or TAs or other methods may be offered.
  • If an illness or other issue means that an evaluative event will be missed, students can be required to present a class absence form or provide other appropriate notification of the reason for the absence to the faculty member in a timely way and prior to the event, if at all possible. If communicated in their class policy, an instructor can consider the lack of timely notification as a reason to deny the student an opportunity to make-up an evaluative event. Faculty only need to provide make-up opportunities if the reason for a student's absence is in accordance with Senate Policy 42-27.
  • If a student has presented appropriate documentation in a timely manner for a legitimate reason for an absence, students should be provided with a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work. Given the circumstances of the pandemic, faculty may want to build in ways of addressing make-up for evaluative events. This might include:
    • Minimizing the need for make-up requests by allowing low-stakes assignments to be submitted late for partial credit, even up to the final day of classes
    • Giving students a 3 week window to submit major assignments
    • Allowing any student to submit one “Life Happens” excuse during the semester, giving them an extra period of time to submit one major assignment
    • Planning for multiple exam dates, letting students pick their preferred date and using sufficient test banks to provide random questions
    • Allowing all students the opportunity to take an exam twice during a 2 to 3 week period, and using their average or higher score.

Course Mode

  • Instructors must work within the expectations of the course mode that was on the schedule of courses when students registered, and cannot change the instructional mode without consultation with their department head. If the course is scheduled as P (in-person), then the instructor must hold at least 75% of their course sessions in person. The remaining 25% could be remote synchronous or asynchronous, but, in all cases, the design of the course should be driven by pedagogical principles, and remote or asynchronous formats should not be used to avoid being in a classroom.


  • At the current time, alternative grading will NOT be used for Fall 2021