Update on plans for the fall

To the Temple community:

Our plans are to open in person for the fall
In the past several weeks, more than 150 of Temple’s best faculty, staff and administrators have been laying out the plans for our safe return this fall. While many questions remain, I am confident we can open on time as a residential university, and operate in a way that reduces the risks to our community’s health while continuing to offer quality educational experiences to our students.

Temple’s tireless Return Team has worked through the detailed scenarios that we discussed a few weeks ago brought about by COVID–19. Those scenarios continue to guide our planning. We have also been in close contact with Philadelphia, state, and federal political and health leaders. We make sure they know our plans and, at the same time, we can stay current on their roadmap for the region.

Critical to our plans are the decisions of Gov. Tom Wolf, who has been opening regions in the state as infection rates have fallen. Gov. Wolf has announced his intention to have Philadelphia move from red phase to yellow on June 5. We welcome that decision and look forward to conditions improving. However, that does not mean Temple will resume normal operations on that date. Like the state, Temple will also use phases to ramp up its operations. Supervisors and managers will notify faculty and employees when university operations are ready for their return.

In addition, Temple is preparing a complete employee guide that will include personal health and safety information as well as instructions for faculty and staff requiring accommodations. We expect that conditions will continue to improve so that we will be able to open for on-campus activities when the fall semester begins on Aug. 24.

It is our intention for learning to be blended this fall, with classes being taught both in person and virtually. The exact details behind that scenario continue to be laid out and depend on changing conditions, and I will provide more information over the summer as plans are refined.

A community united
To move forward successfully, we must join together to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our community, so that Temple can continue to fulfill its vital mission.

I know you will all unite behind the four public health pillars that will be essential to our community moving forward. These practices must become second nature to us all. They include:

  • The use of face coverings. Everyone must wear face coverings in buildings, and we encourage their use everywhere on campus. I know many of you already have face masks, and we will have masks available for those who don’t and for those visiting campus.
  • Frequent hand washing. In addition to encouraging our community members to wash their hands frequently, we will soon install hand sanitizer stations throughout our campuses, along with reminders to avoid touching your face after touching surfaces.
  • Maintaining a safe space between you and others. You are no doubt aware of the need for social distancing. We will have reminders on floors and walls of campus buildings asking you to stay apart while we are together. Classrooms and other spaces will have similar distancing requirements.
  • Monitoring your own health on a daily basis. Taking your temperature, watching for other symptoms and, if warranted, seeking help through your primary care physician or Student and Employee Health Services are important for you and for everyone on campus.

We will have an extensive educational campaign about these measures in the coming weeks.

A phased approach
We will be using a phased approach to reopening over the next few months. Each phase will allow additional people on campus in strictly regulated fashion. As part of this effort, new protocols for keeping our buildings clean and employees safe are being put into place. Taking these small steps allows us to assess our protocols and ensure that they produce the best possible results.

We are currently in phase one. In addition to the essential medical and safety staff who have been on campus throughout this period, we are slowly adding small teams of construction and facilities workers who are making changes to our buildings. For instance, new plexiglass shields will be installed in reception areas to ensure safe separation in places where distancing might be difficult. We are also removing some seats in public spaces to de-densify areas as much as possible.

The second phase, starting this month, will see an increase in research activities at select locations on our campuses. Many of Temple’s groundbreaking researchers, including those at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, are focusing on COVID-19. While some are coming up with new and more effective treatments, other researchers are delving into the mysteries of the virus to help find a cure.

This second phase will also see increasing activity in clinics at locations like the Kornberg School of Dentistry and our School of Podiatric Medicine. These clinics continue to address the needs of our neighbors, who rely on Temple for vital treatment.

Last week, we gained approval to introduce the third phase on June 23, the beginning of the Summer II session. Almost all classes will be online for Summer II. However, we will hold a small number of classes on campus, primarily those taught through the College of Public Health. These classes require in-person instruction, and the students enrolled in them have been apprised of our plan. During this phase, we will be pilot testing a number of protocols and procedures in preparation for larger numbers of students in the fall.

During phase four, we anticipate growing numbers of people on campus beginning Aug. 1 as students move into the neighborhood.

Our final phase will begin as students move into university residence halls in mid–August on dates as they are assigned, followed by fall semester classes beginning on Aug. 24. Given reduced infection rates and authorization from state and local authorities, we will have a blend of in-person and online instruction. Very large classes will occur online and in various break-out sessions. Other classes will occur in person and in hybrid fashion. While our campus will look different, we do believe a campus presence is not only possible, but can be done safely.

At the same time, we have all learned to be nimble when it is necessary to preserve the health and safety of our community. We will be ready to pivot to primarily online instruction at any point during the fall semester should it be required.

One group that has admirably proved its nimbleness is our faculty. While no one wanted to leave campus, Temple’s faculty turned their attention to providing the best possible experience given the circumstances. I’ve heard from several that they learned a great deal during this period, and I know they are working hard to take the lessons learned in the spring and enhance their plans for the fall. I want to commend all of our faculty who have taken this opportunity to prioritize the health and safety of our community, learn new skills and use those to continue providing the best educational experiences possible. It is your commitment to excellence that resulted in our largest ever graduating class in Temple’s history this May.

Calendar changes
Like many other universities, we will start the fall semester at its scheduled time and end the on-campus presence at the end of the day on Friday, Nov. 20. This is at the point when fall break would start, just before Thanksgiving. Rather than send everyone home and bring them back, it would be best to end the campus presence early to reduce public health risks. The remaining week of classes, study period and finals would then be conducted remotely.

Doing this will offer several advantages, not the least of which is giving us an opportunity to assess the fall semester’s success, minimize the possibility of a recurrence and finalize plans for the spring 2021 semester.

Testing and tracing
As part of our return, we will continue—and enhance—our campus testing and contact tracing initiative. Our dedicated team at Student and Employee Health Services has been testing for the virus since the testing materials became available, and that work continues today.

We plan to enhance that operation by shifting our testing site out of the fourth floor of 1700 N. Broad St. and into a space that will become available on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, on the street level of the Morgan Hall tower. With its own entrance and a new reservation system, we will be able to provide local testing to Temple students and staff. More information about this site will be announced as the summer continues.

At the same time, the Health Services team will be bringing on a contact tracing unit that will allow the opportunity to provide greater information to city and state health officials whenever someone tests positive. In this regard, I want to highlight a new initiative of the College of Public Health, which is starting a contact training certification program in June. It’s a vital service this community needs, and will help those looking for work become eligible as there is expected to be a high demand for contact tracers in the months to come.

International campus openings and travel suspensions
I also want to briefly note that the situations at Temple University Japan and Temple Rome continue to evolve. Restrictions in both Tokyo and Rome are slowly being lifted, and each campus is carefully making plans for the fall, using many of the same guidelines we will be implementing on Main Campus.

Currently, all university-sponsored, connected, or funded international travel by students, faculty and staff is suspended. These restrictions are in effect for students through Aug. 15, and through June 30 for faculty and staff. Domestic travel for all is still strongly discouraged.

This decision will be updated on the 15th of each month, based on international, national, state and local guidance. Given the uncertainty of the situation, faculty, staff and students should be prepared to postpone (or cancel) any programs or work that require travel, or be prepared to transition to an alternative, remote mode of delivery.

Supporting our neighbors
As Philadelphia’s only public four-year university, Temple takes very seriously its commitment to the local communities we serve. This is the reason why, when asked by the mayor, we immediately made the Liacouras Center available to become a COVID-19 surge hospital. While the Liacouras Center is now no longer a hospital, there have been many other initiatives to benefit our many neighbors during the pandemic. For example, Temple’s Center for Urban Bioethics has stepped up to help, organizing food and pharmacy deliveries for people at risk, putting patients in touch with their families and providing services to keep communities informed. Staff members at the center put together bags of food—each containing enough to feed one adult for a week—and Temple outreach workers deliver the food. Right now, they are delivering 400 bags a week.

We have also been working with local businesses as they chart a course for the future. Temple’s Small Business Development Center, operating out of the Fox School of Business, has been offering online resources throughout the pandemic.

And of course, our hospital and healthcare clinics continue to address the health and welfare of the residents of North Philadelphia and the southeastern Pennsylvania region.

It is valuable to note that the Temple University research community rapidly shifted its priorities to support research related to COVID-19. More than 60 research projects have been developed for funding, many in collaboration with other research institutions. With support from federal, corporate, foundation and other sponsors, these research programs have put Temple at the forefront of bringing solutions to COVID–19 patients.

There are 35 clinical trials are in various stages of development and approval, with another 25 aimed at researching and developing new solutions. In all, more than $27 million in research projects are in various stages of review and approval.

Focused on what’s important now and tomorrow
Throughout this uncertain time, I’ve been impressed with how this university has drawn together to focus on our mission of providing an education that is accessible, affordable and high quality, as well as conducting research essential to society and providing critical clinical and other services to enhance lives. Even as we are dealing with the evolving situation each day, we are looking ahead to the fall and spring semesters, and what comes afterwards.

Our Board of Trustees has provided great leadership in this area by agreeing to freeze undergraduate and graduate base tuition for the current year to help our financially stressed families. In order to look for every way to keep student costs down and to ensure the university’s long-term financial stability, we have made budget cuts for the fiscal year that starts July 1, reduced salaries of higher paid employees (though exempting faculty), frozen hiring and taken other budget actions. At the same time, we are focusing our fundraising to support our students now and throughout the year.

I believe these efforts have led to a strong interest in coming to Temple University by first-year students. In fact, first-year undergraduate deposits have now reached more than 5,600, an increase of about 5 percent over last year. That’s a great showing of confidence in Temple and our efforts to flourish in difficult times. Of course, the summer is also a period where the number of students who have deposited can slide, in what admissions officers call “summer melt.” Nevertheless, the profile of our entering class is strong and one that will no doubt continue the Temple tradition of perseverance and success.

Before moving on, I want to once again commend the extraordinary life-saving efforts that have been taking place at Temple University Hospital. While many of us have been in our homes, these health professionals have been caring for those stricken by the virus. They deserve our deepest thanks.

As you can see, we are working to ensure an educational experience that is both safe and fulfilling. Some of the best minds at the university are at work on the task, and I have been truly impressed by their commitment and passion. This is the kind of challenge that rallies the Temple community to be its best. And by providing for multiple scenarios, we will be ready should circumstances change.

As always, all of the information contained in this letter, and more, can be accessed on the university’s official webpage, which has been rededicated to the return planning and is constantly being updated.

I know there are many questions yet to be answered. Over the next several weeks, I will be using this forum and others to keep you informed about our progress.

Be well. Stay safe. Thank you for all you do in support of Temple and our mission. I hope to see you in the months to come.


Richard M. Englert