Penn State

People walk past the shops on College Avenue in the heart of downtown State College.

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State’s University Park campus — along with 18 others in the university’s system — will begin a modified fall semester on Aug. 24 before shifting back to remote-learning instruction following the Thanksgiving break on Nov. 30.

As the State College community braces for an influx of more than 40,000 students, area leaders, in collaboration with civic groups, have worked diligently to implement ways to protect both Penn State students and State College residents.

“We, along with Penn State, just launched (Thursday) in our community and on campuses across the commonwealth a Mask Up or Pack Up to students,” said Douglas Shontz, assistant to the manager for the Borough of State College. “Meaning that it’s our community, please mask up or school will shut down again. We’re partnering with them because the majority of students live off campus. So we want to make sure that message doesn’t just stop right at the Allen Street Gates, where people cross over into the downtown.”

Shontz said the preparation for the fall semester has included countless meetings with business owners, residents, local health-care workers and members of the Penn State community. It’s also consisted of listening to the questions and concerns of Penn State students’ parents and relaying concerns to the borough’s town-and-gown committee.

Incoming Penn State students from areas of “high prevalence” this fall are required to complete a pre-arrival COVID-19 testing program. Students involved in campus-wide arrival activities, along with randomly selected students, must also take a pre-arrival test.

Penn State has stated the testing of students and faculty will continue throughout the semester while they’re on campus.

“When it comes to testing, Penn State’s doing a very comprehensive testing program, and they’re going to be reporting out on that data,” Shontz said. “So how can we make sure that our public is aware of that data so they can see because we’re adding a large population to our community, so they want to see with this increased population, how many more positive cases are attributed to that increase in population? Being transparent that way by sharing that data on both our channels and Penn State’s channels is really important.”

Danielle Stemple is the marketing manager for State College’s Lion’s Pride, a popular Penn State clothing and merchandise store in the heart of downtown. During an ordinary semester, Lion’s Pride receives an influx of foot traffic from students and area visitors. Although this fall will offer decreased weekend traffic due to the Big Ten postponement of the fall sports season, Stemple said Lion’s Pride has strict safety measures for patrons to follow.

“We have taken it upon ourselves to really develop a plan to keep all of our customers and staff safe and healthy while shopping at our store,” Stemple said. “… We require masks. We also have touchless hand sanitizers when you enter and leave the store. We will be monitoring occupancy.”

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau is the official tourism promotion agency for Centre County. The bureau’s president and chief executive officer, Fritz Smith, said State College’s business, government and Penn State leaders continue to work together with the common goal of ensuring a safe environment this fall for students and residents alike.

“We’re all having ongoing dialogue, and I think we all want any kind of interaction or events of business openings to happen in a safe and confidence-building environment. We all want the same thing: We want to stay in the green zone and perhaps even graduate from there if there’s a next step,” Smith said.

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