President John Simon announced in an email on May 6 that Lehigh hopes to make a decision on the fall semester by June 15. The email comes amid growing health concerns from the coronavirus pandemic. (Adele Hancock/B&W Staff)

Lehigh to make decision on fall semester by June 15

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President John Simon said in an email today he hopes to inform the Lehigh community by June 15 about the school’s plan for the fall semester in response to the ongoing pandemic.  

“I am optimistic Lehigh will open in some fashion once the state allows us to do so, which may involve a phased opening that encompasses both in-person and remote learning,” Simon said. “In deciding when and how to open, we will rely on guidance from medical professionals and public health officials.”

He said the school has established several task forces that have been planning for different scenarios for the fall and the potential re-opening of campus. 

An academic task force, a financial task force, and a task force to safely reopen the university have all been formed, Simon said. A fourth task force, devoted to forward-thinking and planning beyond the crisis, will look at how Lehigh can continue its education mission after the pandemic. 

“I would anticipate that a first step, when it is feasible, is a phased opening of faculty offices and research labs with strict guidelines for social distancing and safety protocols,” Simon said. “Input from faculty and staff will be taken into serious consideration as we plan in this area.”

Simon said while the school hopes to know its plan for the fall in June, that is subject to change depending on the health situation. 

There are currently nearly 52,000 coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania and over 3,000 deaths, according to the state’s Department of Health. Bethlehem has 580 positive cases with 24 deaths. Both Lehigh and Northampton counties have positivity rates higher than the state’s average positivity rate of about 20 percent. The two counties have more than 5,300 cases of the virus combined with over 220 combined deaths. 

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