New details on our plans for autumn quarter

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Posted on: June 29, 2020
Posted by: 
Chancellor Mark A. Pagano & Jill Purdy, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Over the past few months, people across the University have been hard at work preparing for how we can be safely together on our campuses when conditions in our region allow us to do so. We are now able to share more details about plans for autumn quarter. We are also sharing similar information with our new and returning students, as well as their families.

Protecting the health of our community is a responsibility we all share, and we will all need to be flexible. No one can predict with absolute certainty the course the pandemic will take, and if the virus is spreading too quickly in our state, it is possible that we may need to pivot to all-remote learning, as we did in spring quarter. All our plans for autumn quarter are based upon Pierce County being in Phase 3 of the state’s Safe Start process by then, and our plans are aligned with guidelines recently released by Governor Inslee for colleges and universities in our state.

UW Tacoma’s public, urban-serving mission is important to many people. Our goal for the fall is to provide a high-quality Husky Experience for every student, inside and outside the classroom, to support the vital educational, service and research missions of the UW.

Classes and academics

Classes will begin as scheduled on Sept. 30, in a hybrid approach. We are offering as many in-person courses as possible, prioritizing hands-on courses, such as studio and lab courses, and courses for first-year undergraduate and graduate students. The time schedule has been updated for most courses to indicate which will be taught in-person and which remotely. Schools will continue to update the schedule over the course of the summer as they finalize their plans, and you can read more about how courses were prioritized in a message sent to instructors on Friday.

To maintain a safe six feet of physical distance among students and instructors, smaller classes will meet in bigger rooms. Larger classes will be taught remotely. To allow for appropriately distanced passing between classes, we are maximizing the use of spaces with multiple doorways and alternating the use of adjacent classrooms between class periods. Students will not need to wait outside a classroom for the previous class to leave.

Students who choose not to return to campus, such as for health reasons or because of travel considerations, will be able to continue their academic progress through remote instruction. Additionally, we will continue to have computers and other technology available to borrow like we did in the spring, and the many services that help students make the most of their Husky Experience will be available this fall both for students studying on campus and those studying remotely.

Staying healthy

Protecting our health and the health of our community will take a commitment from every one of us. We will expect all UW students to do their part, and for each of us to model best practices.

All our decisions, policies, and procedures are based on consultation with public health experts and are examined through an equity lens. We recognize that every individual’s circumstances are different, and we know that some of us have underlying health conditions that put us more at risk for contracting COVID-19. For those employees at higher risk, or who become ill with the disease, accommodations can be requested through UW Tacoma Human Resources and Academic Human Resources in the same manner as other accommodations.

Each unit is completing a COVID-19 Prevention Plan and Safe Start Checklist, which details how it will protect its students and employees when we are able to return more people to campus. You can also find information and resources from the Back to the Workplace taskforce, including details on enhanced cleaning and a training video for all employees.

Additionally, the state of Washington and UW have established best practices and policies, including requiring students, employees and visitors to wear masks when they are indoors near other people and outdoors if people are unable to stay six feet apart. Contact tracing and voluntary expanded testing to spot any potential outbreaks early will also be part of our campus protocols. A University-wide testing protocol is in development with faculty and clinical experts and will be finalized soon. This includes planning for expanded testing on or near the UW Tacoma campus.

We will expect everyone to practice the good and now familiar hygiene recommendations of public health officials: washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer and monitoring your temperature and other changes to your health.

Students, staff and faculty who get sick now and in the fall must stay home and self-isolate. Employees should follow their normal department procedure for calling out sick, and are also required to contact an Employee Health Center should they test positive for or be suspected to have COVID-19. For students who live on campus, we will have residence hall rooms set aside for those who test positive for COVID-19 and need a place to isolate while recovering.


We will welcome students back to campus housing and those who have applied to live on campus will receive communications regarding next steps in the assignment process from Housing & Residence Life, including information about room assignments and the use of community spaces, as well as other details about life on campus.

Campus gathering spaces

Gathering and study spaces such as the Mattress Factory, the UW Tacoma Library, the Center for Equity & Inclusion, the Veterans & Military Resource Center and other facilities are being prepared to be open for in-person services and meetings. Physical distancing guidelines for various facilities will be posted and available this fall directly from these facilities and offices.

More questions?

Join UW Tacoma leaders for a UW Tacoma Back-to-
School Town Hall
 at 12:30 on Monday, July 13. Send your questions in advance to A recording will be posted following the Town Hall.

UW leaders in Seattle will hold an online Back To School Town Hall at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, July 10. Send your questions in advance to A recording will be posted following the Town Hall.

You can also visit and for up-to-date information and resources. And, as always, you can consult with your school for more information specific to your academic program.

These are extraordinary times and it has involved a herculean effort across the University to respond to this pandemic while also planning for the future. Thank you for your service to our students and community. Our collective efforts will enable us to unite as Huskies here at UW Tacoma and in our community, advancing our shared mission and continuing our journey together, safely.