Our guide to exiting the semester and January's return

Posted: November 18, 2020

Almost done.

A semester that began more than four months ago with many questions and more than a few anxieties is about to end. We believe it was a successful semester in spite of the challenges and we hope you agree.

As we wrap up our first semester amid a pandemic, we wanted to offer our gratitude as well as outline what the weeks ahead will look like.

Getting to this point was not easy. We sacrificed our days off, we wore our masks, we kept our distance. We kept at it -- day by day, week by week.

Along the way we learned a lot about how to live with COVID-19, and also how relentless it can be. It found its way to our Erie and Ruskin campuses despite our best efforts.

The past few weeks have been especially disconcerting as a wave of cases has swept across both Florida and Pennsylvania and drove up counts for isolation and quarantine for those learning on both of our campuses. The numbers in Erie, reflected on our dashboard, reveal how community spread can affect individuals in our Gannon community even though they may not be campus residents. More than two-thirds of recent counts involve off-campus and commuter students and staff who have thankfully managed their isolation and quarantines effectively from home.

We would have preferred a quieter exit for the semester, but we are grateful for the level of safety that has existed throughout.

But these lessons help guide us as we exit this semester and in how we will resume classes in January:

These will endure until a vaccine or other solutions makes the need for them unnecessary.

For now, there is more work to be done. For students, there are exams to complete and for those living on campus there are things to pack. For staff and faculty, there are grades to be submitted and projects to be finished before the Thanksgiving holiday.

We want you to enjoy these holidays. After all, you’ve earned a break – from class, from work, from worry, from COVID. But please be safe – keep wearing that mask and watching your distance. We also ask that you do check our website for COVID updates on a regular basis. Changes in government guidelines may impact our return to campus in January.

What follows are several policies or procedures to guide you through the weeks ahead and to prepare you for the resumption of classes in January.

Fall Commencement is still on

We will celebrate the many achievements of our graduating students at Commencement at 1 p.m. on Nov. 21 in the Hammermill Center. For the well-being of all participants, guests will not be permitted at the in-person Commencement. Only graduating students are permitted to attend the ceremony. A livestream of the event will be available for guests to participate virtually. Faculty and staff are encouraged to join virtually and celebrate with us. For more details about Commencement, go here.

Study abroad programs

We are continuing to monitor the health situations in Italy and Germany, where we have students. Though concerns are elevated, the situation in both countries has not reached a level where we would call those students home before their studies are complete there. See our most recent communication here.

Looking ahead, we will announce soon – based on the spread of COVID-19 across Europe -- whether we will return our students there in late January 2021.

Plans are still being made for G.I.F.T., T.R.A.V.E.L. and Alternative Break Service Trips. These have already been rescheduled for the end of the semester. Final decisions on all of these will be made in the spring, based on the most-current understanding of COVID-19.

The university will remain open in December and January

The university will continue to be open and function during this long break, much like it does after the end of the school year. We are not on shutdown like we were back in March and early April. That said, remote work will be encouraged for those who can work from home, given the high rates of COVID-19 in our communities. After all, we want to continue to keep density low on campus. Supervisors have the discretion to decide whether their employees work on campus or at home.

LiveSafe must continue to be filled out by those coming to campus, by those living on campus and by those working in clinicals during the break.

However, the daily reminders we received to do our LiveSafe screenings will be discontinued over break. These daily reminders will resume two weeks before classes begin on Jan. 25.

Everyone will need to resume using LiveSafe two weeks prior to returning to campus. You will be asked to quarantine in place before your return and LiveSafe will allow us track your health during that time.

If you contract COVID-19 over break and you are not coming to campus, our nursing staff would like you to report your case through the yellow tips box in LiveSafe. This will help us avoid unnecessary quarantines once you are back on campus. (CDC exempts anyone from quarantine if exposed within 90 days of testing positive.)

The thermal scanning stations will be suspended during the break, except in Waldron. For employees, daily temperature scans should still be done by supervisors in work areas.

Waldron Campus Center changes

The traffic pattern will change for the Waldron Campus Center during the long break to account for the significant decline in usage during that time.

Also, the temperature check station will be moved to the registration desk.

During break, the doors adjacent to the registration desk will be used for both an entrance and exit to the building. Since July, they have been exit only. They will return to exit only in January.

You can see a map of the temporary traffic flow here.

Reduced operations/hours for RWC, Nash Library and Dining

Several parts of the Erie campus will be operating on reduced hours throughout the long break. For a full list, see this link.

Reduced operations/hours at the Ruskin campus

Most of the Ruskin campus will be operating on reduced hours throughout the long break. For a full list, see this link.

Athletic teams press ahead, many changes and some decisions yet to come

We continue to develop a return-to-play schedule for our athletes. We learned last week that all spring PSAC sports and championships are going forward. PSAC championships for fall are canceled, but can be reinstated if at least six institutions commit to participating during the spring semester. Further direction on PSAC championships for winters sports is expected this week. NCAA championships remain as scheduled for winter and spring sports.

We continue to build seasons and competitions for our teams, where possible. This may include competition with interested PSAC institutions or non-conference schools. Our view is that all sports can go forward as long as we can practice, travel and compete safely. To make this possible, we are continuing to test our athletes in accordance with NCAA guidelines.

Updates will continue to be provided directly to athletes through their coaches.

Housing news you can use now and in January

The date to fill out the Break Stay Registration Form for all residents who need to stay or return to campus for any portion of the break has passed. We understand that plans change; and therefore, we will not close registration. To locate the form, click here to visit the MyHousing Portal.

Those who are not planning to stay on campus for break should make arrangements for departure within 24-hours after your last exam. A departure checklist will be provided by Residence Life for a safe and clean exit for break.

We understand that some students may want to pack and take home more than normal for this extended break. If you anticipate doing so, please be mindful of the university’s guidelines for non-residential visitors, as they are not permitted in residence halls for the safety of our entire community. Guests coming to campus to help students depart will need to remain outside. If you need additional assistance with moving items outside of the help roommates or friends can provide, please contact reslife@gannon.edu.

Returning to campus: Early arrival residents will receive specific instructions for check-in and move-in via email from the Office of Residence Life. Spring meal plans will officially begin at dinner on Jan. 24. Please prepare for access to food accordingly if you plan to arrive to campus prior to this date.

If you have any questions, please ask your RA or RD, or contact the Residence Life Office at reslife@gannon.edu or 814-871-7564. For other important housing information, read this recent post.

Key dates to remember in Erie and Ruskin




Ruskin Clinicals, Fieldworks, Rotations

Fall End and Spring Start Dates 2020-2021

Athletic Training (Year 2)

Physical Therapy (Year 3)

Physician Assistant (Year 2)

Occupational Therapy (Year 3)

What onboarding will look like in January

Onboarding will resemble last summer. However, the precise rhythm of testing at move-in is still being designed and might affect your return date, if you are a student living on campus. Here is a look at our testing protocol. This process could also be affected by new state guidelines posted Nov. 17.

All early arrivals to campus – athletes and RAs, for instance – will be tested and placed into limited quarantine until results are returned. We will also be using “pods” during the limited quarantine.

“Pods” are small units of students – four to six in most cases – who will be kept together during the onboarding process to limit the extent of exposures if anyone inside the pod tests positive for COVID-19.

Further communications will be sent regarding move-in and testing.

Student Acknowledgment is being updated and will need your signature
The student COVID-19 acknowledgement has been updated to include random testing on campus in the spring semester. Students will be required to e-sign the document before resuming classes in January.

Remote delivery rules will be re-defined for spring 2021

Remote delivery will continue to be available to students for the spring 2021 term for the following reasons only:

  1. Students who physically cannot be on campus due to a diagnosed medical condition that creates a greater risk for she/he contracting the virus. 
  2. Students traveling from a place with a travel ban or restriction. 

Temporary remote delivery will continue to be available to students for the spring 2021 term for the following reason:

  1. Students who are in quarantine and/or isolation will be given temporary remote access to their classes. 

The deadline to request remote delivery is Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. After that date, no requests will be fulfilled unless they qualify as a “life-changing event” such as being diagnosed with a new ailment that makes a student susceptible to COVID-19. If you are approved for remote delivery, you are not permitted on campus, which includes on campus housing, participation in athletics, clubs and organizations. Our experience from the fall semester shows that our classrooms are safe environments. 
Students who are interested in pursuing the option for remote delivery can fill out the online request form found here. If you are requesting remote delivery due to a medical condition, the Health Center will require documentation from your licensed physician. Once the online form is submitted students will be contacted by a university official and instructed with next steps. For questions email Kathleen Ellwood, director Academic Advising at ellwood002@gannon.edu
The university will do everything possible to provide remote delivery of your spring 2021 courses. However, due to the nature of some courses, remote delivery is not possible. In this case, your schedule may need to be adjusted.

Stay in touch, and ask questions if you’re not clear

We will continue to send messages to your email and will post them at update.gannon.edu.

If you have a question or a comment, you can submit it at https://www.gannon.edu/Questions-or-Comments/.