Local students preparing to move into campus housing or attend classes at Lock Haven University this fall were hit with surprise news on Monday.
Lock Haven University’s main campus in Lock Haven and the Clearfield Campus will be mostly closed to face-to-face instruction and only a select few students will be permitted to live on campus, according to a statement released Monday afternoon.
The decision was made to move to a mostly remote learning environment for the fall 2020 semester with limited exceptions and limited on-campus residency. This is a revision of earlier announced plans, which relied more on face-to-face instruction and a semi-traditional on campus experience.
Looking at the recent rapid rise in COVID-19 infections across the country, Dr. Robert Pignatello, LHU president, 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.”
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.
International students, 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.
LHU Clearfield Campus Associate Director Valerie Dixon said the local campus is included in everything that is happening at the main campus. However, Dixon said the change will not be as big of a change for Clearfield students as those enrolled at the main campus.
“Most of our students live off campus and don’t have a meal plan,” Dixon said. She was expecting about 300 students to attend classes when the campus opens on Aug. 24.
“The structure will be similar, they just won’t be face-to-face in the classroom,” Dixon continued. “There will be some opportunity for some students to come in for face to face classes.”
She said specific details are still being worked out, but initial plans are for campus to be open to students but not to the general public. Students will be able to access on-campus facilities like labs and the library with limited use.
“Many of my faculty are still processing this,” Dixon said.
The residence hall at Clearfield houses a maximum of 36 students with four students in each apartment. Each student has his or her own bedroom and there are two bathrooms to share between four people. Dixon said the building is owned by the Clearfield Foundation not the university, and whether it closes will be the foundation’s decision.
“It is my understanding that if people choose to stay there, they still can because it is apartment-style with two bathrooms,” Dixon said. “That is still being discussed.”
Local students are trying to make the most of the decision. Cory Johnston of Irvona was planning to begin his freshman year of his college career at the main campus studying criminal justice.
Johnston said missing the last few months of his senior year at Glendale Jr./Sr. High School due to the coronavirus pandemic has prepared him for this newest challenge.
“With this being my first semester of college I’m sure it will be challenging with it being online and that it will take some time to learn how to start college all online,” Johnston said. “From missing the last months of my senior year and now missing the beginning months of my freshman year of college, it is different and something I never thought I would’ve had to go through.”
An award-winning scholastic wrestler, Johnston is to be part of the LHU wrestling team.
“With being a part of the Lock Haven wrestling team there are many other challenges away from schooling that I will also face, but all of this will just be another learning experience.”
Madison Niebauer, also of Irvona, will be a new freshman at Lock Haven’s main campus.
She said that, while she is disappointed, it is just one more notch in her belt of life experiences.
“Not staying on campus this semester is disappointing because everyone pictures their freshman year to be so much fun and to attend all of the freshman activities, and that can’t really happen for us, at least for this semester,” Niebauer said.
“Online classes has provided its own challenges, and starting college this way is just a new bump in the road that we will overcome. It is another experience we will have in our pockets in case anything like this were to ever happen again.
“I think my first semester at Lock Haven will give myself and others new challenges to face, but nothing we can’t handle,” she continued. “I am just trying to look at the bright side of things because dwelling on the negatives never does any good.”