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University Message

President Armstrong: Updated Plans for Starting Fall Quarter

A shot of Cal Poly's entrance with flags.

This message originally appeared as an email to the campus community that was sent out on Wednesday, August 12.

Dear Campus Community,

As the start of our fall quarter nears, I want to thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding while we have developed our plans for the upcoming academic year. I know that it has been frustrating for everyone not to have more definite information.

We have some important updates to share: As you may know, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state public health officials recently announced guidelines for higher education. With that guidance in hand, the CSU Chancellor's Office has approved the remaining portions of our plans for fall quarter. We anticipate the winter quarter will also follow a similar plan.

Fall Classes

The fall quarter will begin September 14, with about 13 percent of our approximately 4,300 sections held in-person. These sections are labs and activities that have been determined as critical to student success and to keeping students on track to degree completion.

As we have stated previously, we will provide a fully virtual option for students who either cannot or choose not to take in-person classes for any reason. We are asking first-year students who do not wish to take in-person courses, but who may be having difficulty getting a seat in required courses this fall, to reach out to our Mustang Success Center. Continuing students who have registered for in-person courses but would like to be fully virtual for fall should contact the academic department or college advising center for assistance.

Most in-person classes conclude November 20 and all classes will be held virtually November 23-24 with virtual final exams from November 30 through December 4. Any classes that start the quarter in a virtual format will remain virtual for the entire quarter and will not transition to an in-person format under any circumstances.

A very limited number of in-person classes, senior projects, undergraduate research, enterprise projects and activities will be granted in-person status for the period from November 20 through the end of the calendar year, on a case-by-case basis.


In a survey of Cal Poly students conducted in early summer, the vast majority reported that they intended to come back to the San Luis Obispo community this fall, even in the event that classes were held 100 percent virtually. In light of this fact and after careful analysis and consideration - including consultation with public health officials - we will be allowing a limited number of students to return to housing on campus this fall. Our intent is to strike a balance that accommodates the needs and desires of students, while also seeking to minimize risk to them and the broader San Luis Obispo community.

In a typical academic year, Cal Poly houses close to 8,500 students on campus. In an effort to de-densify university residences this fall, we will be housing no more than 5,980 students on campus, with a priority on first-year students. University Housing will reach out with more information to first-year and continuing students who have completed the housing application/agreement process.

Our move-in period will be extended to 10 days so that we can de-densify the process. Move-in will start September 3 and continue through September 13. Incoming and continuing students will receive more information from University Housing on this process in the coming days. New student Academic Day will be held on September 9. Week of Welcome will be held from September 10-13 in a hybrid format, with small-group, in-person activities happening outside with physical distancing and larger-group activities being offered virtually.

Working on Campus

We are continuing to encourage all faculty and staff who can do so to work remotely during fall quarter, to help de-densify campus. We are assessing some expanded on-campus staffing in cases that involve mission-critical operations, the ability to control and manage specific work environments through physical distancing and personal safety equipment, and the need to access on-campus resources.

Departments with employees returning to work on campus will take numerous precautions to de-densify their buildings and work spaces: bringing staff back on campus on alternating days, staggering starting and departure times to reduce traffic in common areas, and taking measures to create physical distance in offices and meeting rooms.

In accordance with the state and local mandates, employees and students must wear face coverings in any public areas, shared work areas, and common areas such as hallways, break rooms and conference rooms. Even if they are on campus, to the extent possible, employees will be encouraged to hold meetings virtually and conduct their work via e-mail, telephone, instant message and other technology rather than face-to-face.

Managers of employees who self-identify as being vulnerable to COVID-19 in accordance with CDC guidelines should make arrangements for those individuals to continue teleworking. If such work is unavailable, employees should reach out to Human Resources or Academic Personnel to explore appropriate accommodations.

Safety Measures

For those returning to campus, we want to inform you about the safety measures we are taking. Every student living or attending class on campus will be issued a face covering and face shield, along with instructions for use and care of the equipment. Students living on campus will receive the equipment when they move in, while students living off campus with on-campus classes will receive information about where to pick them up. Faculty and staff members working on campus will be issued a face covering and face shield at the division level.

Faculty and staff have been asked to take an online COVID-19 awareness training, "COVID-19 Information for the Workplace," with important health, safety and prevention information, which our colleagues at Cal Poly Corporation and Associated Students Inc. are also completing. Please note that this is not an indication or expectation that you return to work on campus. Students will receive the information during SLO Days and Week of Welcome (WOW).

In line with state public health rules, face coverings are required indoors in public spaces and outside when a physical distance of at least 6 feet cannot be maintained (this includes while operating or riding in vehicles with others who are not in your household).

In our housing communities, custodial services will increase sanitation of common areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and other high-touch surfaces. Similar cleaning and sanitation measures are taking place in our academic buildings and other high-traffic areas of campus. Sanitizing sprays and wipes will be provided, in addition to increased access to hand sanitizer stations in strategically placed locations throughout campus. We will continue to encourage healthy behaviors across our campus community, including washing hands frequently with soap and water.

Additional strategies in academic buildings include increasing ventilation in rooms where possible, reducing course enrollment capacities/finding strategies to reduce room occupancy, providing appropriate safety equipment, creating room conditions where physical distancing can be implemented, and scheduling classes further apart so that exiting and entering students do not cross paths. There will be additional personal protective equipment requirements in classroom spaces, such as wearing face shields in addition to face coverings when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Our Campus Dining venues will be open with de-densified outdoor dining and take-out services only. Campus Dining is asking that all orders be placed through Grubhub to limit contact.

Campus Health and Wellbeing

Current and enrolled students will be able to access COVID-19 diagnostic testing at Campus Health and Wellbeing (CHW) free of charge, which will perform in-house viral testing of symptomatic students and close contacts if indicated.

Cal Poly has developed a comprehensive exposure investigation process that will assist San Luis Obispo County Public Health's efforts in determining close contacts of COVID-19 positive cases among campus community members.

Current and enrolled students who are symptomatic will be directed to self-quarantine in their rooms while an appointment is scheduled for viral testing with CHW.

Students living on campus who have undergone viral testing and are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive will be moved temporarily to designated isolation rooms. Students who live off campus will be directed to self-isolate. These locations will be kept confidential to ensure the privacy of our community members.

Along with San Luis Obispo County Public Health support, CHW is developing an Isolation and Quarantine Support Team that will closely communicate with affected students to ensure they are being supported during their quarantine/isolation period. This team will also ensure a student's overall well-being is supported by connecting them to additional campus resources as appropriate (e.g., food delivery from Campus Dining, Counseling Services, Academic Support Services, Disability Resource Center and Dean of Students).

New Roadmap Webpage

You can find more details about these plans on a new webpage here. We will continue to update this webpage with information about our plans for fall quarter and beyond. We will also continue to update daily the campus COVID-19 website with confirmed case numbers and other important health advisories and information.

Whether you are returning to campus this fall or planning to study or work from home, please continue to practice healthy behaviors: Wear your face covering when outside of your home, practice physical distancing, wash your hands often and get plenty of self-care, ample rest, nutritious food and regular exercise. We care about you; please reach out if you need resources or support.

I know the uncertainty of this evolving situation can cause stress and anxiety, and I thank you for the patience you've shown during this time. We will come through this stronger, together. In the meantime, please take care of yourself.


Jeffrey D. Armstrong