Return to Campus Plan for Fall 2020

Messiah University is in session this fall with flexible in-person and remote learning options, health and safety protocols and student care and support.


FAQs for students and families

FAQs for undergraduate students and families

Residence Life and Housing

Student visitation will look different for fall 2020. Federal and state guidance on reopening safely instruct institutions to limit visitors and non-essential personnel in residential spaces. The University will be using a phased approach to visitation will occur to better ensure the health and safety of all.

For the first two weeks of classes, there is no visitation. Students must not enter a floor or apartment or house if they do not reside there. If the campus remains free of COVID-19 cases after two weeks, visitation will resume with modified parameters outlined below.
  1. Residential students may visit fellow residential students. Both the hosts and visiting residential students must wear protective cloth masks during the duration of the visit.
  2. Until further notice, no off-campus visitors are permitted in university residences, including commuters and student family members.
  3. Residential student visitors cannot have had COVID-19 symptoms nor been exposed to someone with the virus within two weeks prior to the visit.
  4. Residential student visitors must remain a Falcon Wingspan apart and should not share furniture together with another person at the same time (futons, couches, chairs, room beds, etc.). Furniture should be cleaned and disinfected immediately after use.
  5. Residential student visitors are not permitted to be in floor lounges.
  6. No floor bathroom use by residential student visitors. Residential student visitors may use the public restrooms located in the main building spaces.
  7. There is a maximum limit of three individuals in a traditional residence hall single or double room; four individuals in a traditional residence hall triple room.
  8. Residents in apartments are limited to three additional residential visitors at a time with the ability to maintain a Falcon Wingspan apart. As always, no visitation in bedrooms by the opposite sex.
  9. Each special interest house will be provided with a maximum occupancy related to residential student visitors.
  10. Resident assistants are considered essential personnel and will perform walking rounds throughout floors and buildings, per usual, but wearing protective cloth masks as they do. Adjustments may be made as necessary for health and safety reasons. Other authorized campus employees will also be permitted access to residential spaces on an as-needed basis with health and safety requirements in place.
If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the campus community, visitation may be restricted or eliminated to mitigate the spread of the virus. If this occurs, applicable guidance will be communicated to residents in a timely fashion.
Residential undergraduate students should only leave campus only when necessary.* The more residents who travel off campus, the greater the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and introducing it to our campus community. If students are aware of exposure to someone with COVID-19 while off campus, they should contact the Engle Center to inform them and receive guidance.
*Note: Students may leave campus for off-campus jobs, internships, clinicals, practicums, etc. Students may also travel to church, for groceries, supplies, services, etc., if the locations they are visiting are practicing CDC COVID-19 best practices, i.e., requiring masks, social distancing, etc. Students should not travel during the fall semester to CDC COVID-19 “hotspots.

Read Messiah's parameters for off-campus church attendance


It is safest for Messiah’s campus community if only students and employees are physically on campus during the fall semester. And until further notice, no off-campus visitors are permitted inside university residences, including commuters and student family members. However, if it is necessary for an off-campus family member to connect with their student, they may do so outside, i.e., they may not be inside of a campus building, and must wear a mask and socially distance from those outside of their family group at all times. Family members are asked NOT to come to campus, however, if they exhibit any of the symptoms of COVID-19, are confirmed positive with COVID-19, or have been in close direct contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.

The University requests that this not happen during the fall semester. It is much safer, if necessary, for family members to connect, bring supplies, take-out meals, etc., to students versus taking them off-campus (following the above outdoor visitation parameters). As part of the Community Promise they signed prior to the fall semester, residential students agreed not to leave and return to campus unless absolutely critical. This greatly reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19 to the campus community. Allowances have been made for crucial off-campus jobs, internships, clinicals, practicums, etc., if students’ employers are following Messiah’s guidelines for COVID-19 health and safety, including requiring masks and social distancing. Messiah has also provided students with parameters for off-campus church attendance. We greatly appreciate family members’ support and cooperation in helping us to protect our campus community in this way.


First day of classes is Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Last day of in person classes is Thursday, Nov. 24.  Finals will be online starting Tuesday, Dec. 1 and finishing on Friday, Dec. 4.  Check the registrar website for the detailed schedule on finals

No, this year there is no fall break. This is designed to help mitigate the spread of COVI-19 by minimizing the travel that typically occurs by students and employees over fall break.

Below is a summary of the undergraduate course models that Messiah will be using this fall. Read the full undergraduate academic plan for fall 2020.
  1. Enhanced face-to-face (F2F); Lecture-based classroom
    This version of course delivery looks and feels very much like a traditional lecture classroom, but includes synchronous participation from remote students.  Classroom technology makes it possible for remote students to hear and see at least the most critical elements of the classroom presentation/discussion and to interact with the instructor or peers.  Course pedagogy is generally the same as it would be for a traditional lecture course delivery.
  2. Enhanced face-to-face (F2F); Activity-based classroom
    This version of flexible course delivery makes use of what some call a “flipped classroom” pedagogy.  Direct instruction is generally asynchronous and moved in advance of the class hour and delivered via recorded mini-lectures, focused readings, or brief “primer” assignments.  The class time is then devoted to activities such as problem solving, discussions, reviewing paper drafts, etc.
  3. HyFlex
    The HyFlex strategy effectively blends elements from the two prior course delivery strategies to provide options for the student and for content delivery.  Students who can attend class F2F do so, while students who cannot attend the physical classroom time can participate either synchronously or asynchronously using materials available online that are functionally equivalent in content and rigor with what will be done in the classroom. While this option provides flexibility, it also entails significant investment in and changes to course design, preparation, and delivery. 
  4. Online
    A small percentage of courses may be identified by the institution as needing to be delivered entirely online.  While this will not be the norm, this will a supported modality in that limited number of cases.  For courses or sections that will be delivered entirely online, the university will work with the faculty member to set up the course in a standard online format with a template that is compatible with the templates designed for the three faculty options above.
  1. Residential Student: The residential student resides in campus housing and participates in the on-campus and in-person educational experience.  While this residential and academic experience will have necessary modifications for health and safety, in-person attendance in academic courses and campus activities (within safety and health constraints) will be the expectation and the norm.
  2. Commuter Student: The commuter student resides off campus locally (within 50 miles of Messiah University) and must fulfill one of the following criteria: living with a parent(s) or immediate family member(s), is married, is over 23 years old, or is classified as having independent status by the Office of Financial Aid. While there will be necessary modifications to campus life for health and safety reasons, in-person attendance in academic courses and campus activities (within safety and health constraints) will be the expectation and the norm.
  3. Fully Remote Student: The fully remote student resides off campus for the duration of the fall semester and does not travel to campus for academic courses or campus life activities.  The student regularly participates in courses with the expectation of regular remote attendance in synchronous course sessions.  A student who begins the fall as a Residential Student or a Commuter Student may, with approval, make a one-time decision to switch to “Fully Remote Student.” Once a student chooses this option, that status will be maintained for the duration of the fall 2020 semester.  The student may not switch from Fully Remote to either of the other two categories during the semester.

All those services will be available to students.  Information on accessing them will be provided at the beginning of the academic year.

Murray library will be open for students and employees only.  The group study spaces will be set up to meet socially distancing guidelines.  Operational hours will be posted.

Where feasible furniture has been set up to allow for social distancing.  New room capacities are posted in each space.  In situations where 6-foot spacing is not feasible, such as in, laboratories or studios such as film that require closer proximity, increased PPE, such as glasses/goggles, lab coats, and gloves will be used. In addition, some professional organizations in these areas have published recommendations for mitigating risk that can be incorporated as well.

Faculty are working with the various agencies to ensure that placements are made.   You can contact your advisor directly for details related to your particular situation.

Read more about off-campus placements

Yes, within safety guidelines.  Events will be live-streamed and where possible there will be a small audience.  Rehearsal will take place in a socially distance setting.

Read more about perfomances

Read more about off-campus guest attendance

The Bookstore is set up for online ordering.  All books must be purchased online; the Textbook Annex will not be open for in person shopping. You are encouraged to order your books early and have them mailed home.  If you cannot ship them home, there will be a pick up location at the Annex to pick up books.

Cocurricular programs

The Division of Student Success and Engagement is preparing to welcome back our undergraduate students with a meaningful, modified offering of cocurricular programs, services and facilities designed to protect their health and safety during the challenging circumstances of COVID-19. 

Read an overview of how Messiah University will facilitate counseling services, chapel and campus ministries, athletics (including access to the fitness center and gyms), academic support services and career and professional development for students.

Tuition, fees and refunds

Regarding Messiah's adjusted fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters:

Messiah University is absorbing significant costs to implement a comprehensive approach to safely operating our campus, diminishing the spread of COVID-19 and delivering a high-quality enhanced educational model that flexibly offers the majority of our coursework both face-to-face and remotely. While there will be no fees or additional charges billed to students for these measures, there will also be no accommodation for refunds to students due to the announced modifications to the 2020-2021 fall and spring semesters.

However, if further government directives require Messiah to move its coursework online earlier than planned, senior administration would review and consider issuing credit to students for room and board. Any university calendar adjustments during this challenging time have been made, and will continue to be made, specifically with the needs and safety of our students, their hometown communities, and the greater Messiah community in mind.  

Consistent with Messiah University’s current refund policy, students choosing to move from residential to remote-only status during the fall 2020 semester will receive credits to be applied to the spring 2021 academic term. Housing charges are adjusted on a pro-rated basis depending on the official date of the student’s status change. For students with dining dollar meal plans, any unused dining dollars will be credited to their spring 2021 bill, and the operations charge is nonrefundable. For students with ala carte plans, any remaining ala carte balances will be credited to their spring 2021 bill. It is important to note that changes to remote-only status after Sept. 30, 2020 will not result in room or board credits. Questions regarding this policy, or an individual student’s account, may be directed to Student Financial Services at or 717.691.6004. 

Commuter students

Commuter Student Services will continue to operate out of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Programs located on the upper level of the Larsen Student Union. In late July, commuter students will receive an email with start-of-the-semester information for both returning students and incoming new and transfer students.

The Charles Frey Commuter Lounge located in the lower level of Mountain View Residence Hall will remain open, but with a reduced maximum occupancy due to COVID-19 health and safety parameters. To create additional space for commuter students, the rear, lower level of Hostetter Chapel will function as an annex to the Commuter Lounge. Details about the use of both spaces will be communicated via email and during orientation (for new and transfer commuters). Commuter parking remains unchanged.

Dining Safety

The Dining Services team is excited to welcome our students to campus and will work tirelessly to ensure that each campus restaurant is a safe, healthy, inviting and quality dining experience for our students and guests

Campus cleaning

Facility Services has developed a campus wide plan to address cleaning and sanitation in compliance with CDC guidelines, including:

Campus deep cleaning

In preparation for the fall semester, Messiah staff have been deep cleaning and disinfecting all areas of campus, focusing additional resources on high-traffic and common-use areas. Teams are installing protective Plexiglas and other safety shields, increasing hand sanitizing stations, thinning out furniture/seating and adding signage to help with social distancing. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols will continue throughout the fall session in compliance with all state and CDC guidelines to help protect our campus community. 
Residence hall cleaning
All residence hall buildings will be professionally disinfected before students return. Campus staff will be assigned to full cleaning bathrooms, hallways, lounges, kitchens, stairwells and public areas of residence halls once daily. Additional hourly sanitizing will be applied to high-touch areas. Residence Life will assign each student their own sink, commode, and shower in the bathrooms. Students will be provided supplies and ask to help wipe down their assigned bathroom facilities before and after use. Campus staff and student employees will be assigned bathrooms to full clean such that residence hall bathrooms will be cleaned and sanitized seven days per week.  
Addressing other potential health risks

The following additional steps will be taken to reduce the spread of illness:
  • Classrooms will have sanitation spray and wipes so students and faculty can wipe down space between uses.
  • Reduced amount of employees and students allowed in campus vehicles
  • Campus water fountains will be temporarily turned off in compliance with PA Department of Health
  • Hand sanitizer will be placed at building entrances
  • Cleaning supplies will be available on each campus building floor
  • Increased HVAC coil/duct cleaning and filter changing 
  • Installation of Plexiglas shields at main interaction points where six feet of distance is not feasible

Student employment

Yes, students may work off campus if their employer is following CDC best practices for COVID-19 safety, i.e., wearing masks, social distancing, appropriate hygiene precautions, etc.

Messiah is offering on-campus student employment program this fall. Your workstudy supervisor will reach out to you as you return to campus to work through the details of your work/position.

Each department will be communicating directly to you regarding this schedule.

Campus Healthcare and COVID-19 Precautions

Yes, all Messiah students and employees will be expected to consistently wear masks. A reusable, washable cloth mask will be provided to all community members in August. Everyone is also expected to acquire their own additional masks so that masks can be maintained in a clean and useful fashion. Note: bandanas and scarves are not acceptable for masks. Community members may choose to wear a face shield instead of a mask (face shields are the only alternatives permissible instead of masks). Additionally the College will provide disposable masks in areas where routinely applying a new mask may be most appropriate.

Yes, all students and all employees who are on campus will take their temperature at least daily. Employees need to record their temperature before coming to work (no more than one hour before reporting to campus). This is to be recorded daily on the Falcon Health COVID-19 Check In app, which is accessible from the FalconLink portal.

Read FAQs re: Falcon Health screening process

The Engle Center functions as a full-service medical center/urgent-care center, right in the middle of campus. Undergraduate students who have chronic medical conditions see the nurse practitioner, who helps to regulate their medications, orders tests and coordinates with home health care providers and specialists. Those who have urgent health care needs such as abdominal pain or cough can often be seen the same day.  
The Engle Center is equipped and practiced in ordering, scheduling and following up on radiology tests such as chest x-rays and CT.  The center also offers 12 lead EKGs, rapid strep tests, rapid flu tests, mono tests, phlebotomy, immunizations, a full service travel clinic and many more services, such as suturing and medication supervision.
The Engle Center medical staff are serving as the coordinating hub for COVID-19 symptom prevention, screening, testing, quarantine/isolation guidance, contact tracing and medical care—including serving as the University’s liaison with government and health care authorities.
The Engle Center medical staff have privileges to the UPMC/Pinnacle system via PINNACLE LINK online and as such, the preference is to refer to and utilize UPMC/Pinnacle facilities as often as possible.  With the established privileges, the Engle Center medical staff is able to access a student’s records in real-time – seeing when they have been admitted, any labs that have been completed, any radiology reports and when a student is discharged.  This access to complete information is greatly facilitates effective follow up with students once they’ve returned to campus.  
While the Engle Center is able to call ahead to any emergency room, privileges with UPMC/Pinnacle allow our medical staff to easily send any pertinent records ahead of the referred student, including their medical history, any medications they’re taking, etc.   In addition, the Engle Center maintains a large network of specialists (cardiologists, infectious disease specialists, allergists, ENTs, etc.)  to whom students are regularly referred. The Engle Center is fully practiced in making these referrals when a patient’s condition warrants a next level of care. 

Yes, the Engle Center is prepared to reduce the risk of exposure by facilitating a telehealth option for students.  The Engle Center will utilize, a free and secure telemedicine solution to provide our patients with synchronous remote visits when an in-person visit is not feasible, practical or safe.

Summary of current COVID-19 testing plan:

  • All residential students have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to arrival on campus.
  • Once on campus, all students will use the daily FalconLink check-in procedure to register their temperatures and presence of symptoms with the Engle Center.
  • Symptomatic individuals or individuals with known exposure to a confirmed positive case will be tested and put in quarantine awaiting test results.
  • The University has purchased and anticipates delivery of a point-of-care (POC) testing instrument later this fall to test for COVID-19, which will give results (>95% accuracy) in about 15 minutes. 
  • Prior to the arrival of the POC instrument, the Engle Center is prepared to do PCR testing for students and employees throughout the semester due to symptoms or exposure. Tests will be sent to local hospitals or diagnostic companies for processing.

Once on-site, rapid testing becomes available during the semester, students who are physically present on campus, even if not symptomatic, may be required to undergo COVID-19 testing as part of regular population sampling designed to keep the campus healthy and safe and support the continuation of face-to-face residential education. 


Messiah announces required sampling testing for on-campus undergraduate students 09/29/20

Messiah announces required testing for employees and on-campus graduate students 09/18/20

Messiah announces required testing for on-campus undergraduate students 09/07/20 

The University is closely following the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) Guidelines. For those who test positive, we contact the DOH immediately according to HIPPA guidelines, and follow the appropriate contact tracing and notification protocols. 

Messiah researched and considered the value of testing all students and employees prior to their arrival to campus. However, the most recent CDC guidelines indicate that pre-campus testing is less effective in the reduction of COVID-19 than a comprehensive quarantine protocol and a daily required self-monitoring/reporting for the entire campus community—combined with a robust on-campus testing protocol for any student or employee who is at high risk because of symptoms or exposure. Accordingly, this is the testing strategy and protocol that the University has adopted for the fall. However, we are following the CDC guidelines carefully and will adapt as needed throughout the semester.

Yes, isolation will be utilized for patients who need to be truly isolated, i.e., those who are COVID positive or are presumed positive (awaiting test results). Those in quarantine would be those who need to monitor symptoms. On-campus isolation and quarantine housing for undergraduate students has been identified (Smith Apartments A/B and Climenhaga Homestead) and will be staffed for monitoring if ill students take residence. Messiah also has option for additional off-campus, but campus-sponsored housing at Oakwood Hills apartments, located on the edge of campus. Isolation and quarantine for commuter and on-campus graduate students will occur in their regular residences.

Watch the video

Quarantine and Isolation Care FAQs

Messiah University has reserved numerous on-campus apartments in Smith Residence, and several private rooms in the Climenhaga Homestead dedicated as space for isolated or quarantined students. Depending on the specific circumstances and medical factors involved that determine how many students can be in one space together, this yields an approximate on-campus occupancy range of 28-70.

Messiah also has access to additional apartments at Oakwood Hills, the university-affiliated apartment complex adjacent to campus. And, Messiah has a scalable arrangement to contract additional private room space as needed for students in partnership with a national hotel brand located near campus. Messiah continues to secure appropriate space to provide isolation and quarantine housing for students who need it. Having access to this additional off-campus space contributes to our resourcing and ability to remain open for an on-campus educational and residential experience.

There is not a simple specific number the University can provide because there are a variety of integrated and changing factors involved. Messiah has a senior administrative team, called the Integration and Response Team, which provides ongoing leadership to the University’s response to COVID-19. This group has developed parameters that would guide Messiah’s ability to remain open at various residency capacities for an in-person educational experience. Those parameters include integrated, changing factors such as the number of positive on-campus cases, occupancy levels of available quarantine and isolation space, employee positivity and absence rate, testing capacity, PPE supplies, COVID-19 cases in the surrounding region, etc. This team daily monitors all of these factors as they relate to each other, and the impact on the University’s operations. If Messiah were to begin to approach these levels, we would clearly and quickly communicate any necessary changes to Messiah’s residential or educational experience directly to student and parents.


The safest public health protocol for a student who needs to self-quarantine or isolate (due to suspected or confirmed exposure to COVID-19) is to remain in campus housing so as not to risk spreading the virus further outside of the campus community. The University is prepared to care for and support students in this way. However, if the student and their parent/guardian prefer that the student self-quarantine or isolate from home, they are able to do so. This decision would just need to be facilitated and communicated through the University’s Engle Health Center.

Commuter students will be sent home for the required period of time.