Update on fall semester planning

Exterior of Brelsford WSU Visitor Center.
Brelsford WSU Visitor Center

Washington State University is adopting a Hyflex model that will combine in‑person and distance education delivery for the upcoming fall semester.

In a letter Wednesday to the WSU community, President Kirk Schulz provided a roadmap for Fall 2020, outlining how the university plans to adjust operations for the safety of its students, faculty and staff.  The complete letter is available online.

“First and foremost, I want to reiterate that protecting the health and safety of our Cougar family is of paramount concern,” Schulz wrote. “All decisions affecting the fall semester are being scrutinized from a safety perspective.”

The university is prohibiting any in-person group activities of more than 50 people during the fall semester, which applies to classrooms, events and meetings. By July 1, WSU will unveil its testing strategy for the semester ahead, and more details about which app will be chosen for contact tracing will be made available by August 1.

More information on specific areas of focus can be found below.

Physical distancing

Policies to ensure appropriate physical distancing will be in place across all campuses and locations. These will apply to all in‑person classes, activities, events, and meetings. Room occupancy limits, foot‑traffic flow and related considerations will be clearly indicated by signage.

In‑person gathering limits

No more than 50 individuals will be allowed for any in‑person group activities during the fall semester. This applies to classrooms, events, and meetings. The specifics of the restrictions may differ depending on the health situation in the communities where WSU campuses and operations are located.

Cleaning protocols

Cleaning protocols will be in place for all facilities, including classrooms, instructional laboratories, meeting spaces, and offices used for in‑person activities at all campus locations.

Testing and contact tracing

WSU is committed to understanding the prevalence of COVID‑19 on its campuses and at all of its locations as university leaders make decisions about university operations. This commitment will include implementation of some form of COVID‑19 surveillance testing, which will be followed up with contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine of those who test positive. Measures will be in place to support students living in residence halls who need to isolate or quarantine. Details of WSU’s testing strategy will be announced on July 1.

WSU will introduce a phone app for contact tracing as part of the return to in‑person operations. A specific app hasn’t been chosen yet, but more details will be shared around Aug. 1.

Community engagement

WSU continue to work with local health authorities as well as city and county governments as the university make plans for emerging from the COVID‑19 environment. On the WSU Pullman campus, for example, officials are in the process of working with the local communities and private residential complexes on a common set of protocols to minimize the chance of a widespread outbreak of the virus.

Maintenance of an equitable and inclusive learning environment

WSU will continue to be diligent in making sure every learning environment at the university—whether face‑to‑face or remote—is equitable and inclusive. The university has worked hard to address the inequities exposed by COVID‑19, and this work must continue with even greater intentionality moving forward.


WSU will implement a public health communication campaign that emphasizes everyone’s role in keeping themselves safe and, by doing so, keeping the WSU community safe. Every member of the Coug community must do their part—on and off campus. The actions of WSU community members will have a significant impact on the decisions the university makes about operations and its ability to remain open. Promoting a culture of mutual care and compliance with health and safety guidelines will be a critical element of the university’s plan.

Return to the workplace

WSU is committed to bringing employees back safely to in‑person locations as permitted under phases 2, 3, and 4 of the state’s plan for reopening. The approach will vary by location within Washington, by individual circumstance, and by work sector. Human Resource Services has created a guide with much helpful information.


Instruction will include a Hyflex model, a model that combines in‑person and distance education delivery. Implementation of this approach will be determined by class size, a faculty member’s ability to be in the classroom, the unique requirements of certain courses, and the availability of technology, among other considerations. Among the key points under consideration that will determine the method of course delivery:

  • Face‑to‑face classes should not be taught in courses that require seating for more than 50 students at a time.
  • Faculty should have the option to use the Hyflex approach, offer a course entirely online, or offer multiple in‑person sections of a course (e.g., one‑third taught on Monday, one‑third taught on Wednesday, one‑third taught on Friday) that requires seating more than 50 students at a time.
  • Many courses requiring a seating capacity of fewer than 50 students should be taught as a distance course if an instructor is in a high‑risk group.
  • All courses planned for face‑to‑face delivery should have a backup plan for online delivery in the event that conditions require such a move.

WSU is also considering changes to the 2020–21 academic calendar to minimize breaks and to reduce travel, especially after Thanksgiving.

Student life

The details of WSU’s plan for the student residential experience on the WSU Pullman campus will be announced around the middle of this month. What the university has determined so far:

  • Occupancy levels will be reduced in university-owned residence halls and apartments.
  • Physical distancing standards and cleaning protocols will be applied to all dining areas in all campus locations.
  • Students on all campuses and in all locations should expect to see common areas of use (e.g., student union, recreation) open with physical distancing, reduced occupancy, identified foot‑traffic flow, and biosecurity measures in place to minimize virus transmission.


WSU is committed to ramping up on‑site research, scholarship, and creative activity in June in accordance with the recently developed guidance developed by the Office of Research.

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