The university announced Fall quarter will start on September 14 and allow in-person instruction for 15 percent of classes until November 20 in a campus-wide email.

After November 20, all classes will continue virtually, including final exams.


Fall classes will be divided into three categories: in-person, synchronous virtual and asynchronous virtual. 

About 15 percent of courses will be held in-person, as they cannot be effectively taught virtually. Asynchronous virtual classes will remain virtual through the entire quarter. Synchronous virtual classes would be eligible to move to in-person classes if health conditions improve and if the California State University (CSU) permits.

If synchronous virtual classes are moved to in-person classes, students and faculty may choose to continue taking the course virtually. 

“In other words, we do not foresee any situation in which a student or faculty member who has started a course virtually in the fall would be requested to move to in-person if they choose not to,” the email read.

Students who need to take an in-person course, but are not comfortable doing so will also not be penalized. Students are encouraged to contact the Mustang Success Center before registering for Fall quarter if they are uncomfortable with taking an in-person course.

Courses that will be held in-person are mostly labs and activities, which includes lectures immediately followed by a lab and lectures with significant hands-on activities, according to the email. Agricultural enterprise courses that are classified as lectures, but involve working in animal or crop units will also be held in person.

Starting in October each year, larger numbers of students start reporting to the health center with flu-like symptoms, and the flu season further intensifies after Thanksgiving break, Armstrong said in an interview with Mustang News.

Scientists do not know how COVID-19 will behave during colder months, but to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus during the flu season, the university thought it would be safest to transition to virtual classes after Thanksgiving break, Armstrong said. 

If students are expected to be closer than six feet to each other during class for 10 minutes or less, they will be required to wear a cloth mask in class. If they’ll be closer than six feet for more than five to 10 minutes, they will be provided plexiglass face shields and gloves, Armstrong said. 

Students feeling sick will be asked not to attend class.

The last day for in-person classes will be Nov. 20, and virtual classes will continue Nov. 23 through Nov. 24. Thanksgiving break will last from Nov. 25 through Nov. 27 rather than an entire week like in past years. Final exams will be held virtually Nov. 30 through Dec. 4.


A commencement ceremony will not be held for those graduating in Fall 2020. The university remains hopeful to celebrate Spring 2020, Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 graduates in person at the Spring 2021 commencement ceremony.

SLO Days and WOW

SLO Days will be virtual and will take place in three phases, according to the campus-wide email. 

The three phases of SLO Days includes advance preparation that students will complete prior to their session, a community-building day in small virtual groups with orientation leaders and specialized virtual sessions.

Week of Welcome (WOW) will be held in a hybrid format, according to the email. Small-group activities will happen in person and large-group activities will be offered virtually.

For example, each WOW group will be able to meet while social distancing, but large events like WOWarama will be held online, Armstrong said. 

University facilities

If the county isn’t using the Recreation Center as an alternative care site Fall quarter, the second floor will be used for kinesiology labs, Armstrong said.

Depending on the public health situation, the library, University Union and other facilities may re-open with social distancing.

Sports games may be allowed without spectators, but the university does not have a secure plan yet, Armstrong said.


Freshmen will be required to live on campus unless they are vulnerable to COVID-19 or live in the area and are able to commute to class, Armstrong said. 

Sophomore Cal Poly Scholars and student athletes will also be required to live on campus unless they live locally or have health concerns, according to Armstrong. 

If a student’s classes are entirely online Fall quarter, they can defer their housing contract until the start of winter quarter, and their $1,500 initial payment will be applied to winter quarter housing, according to University Housing

Cerro Vista and Poly Canyon Village apartments will offer single rooms, and other residence halls will potentially offer double rooms. Former quads in yakʔitʸutʸu may be converted to triples, Armstrong said.

“We believe that the risk is very manageable for students to be in doubles, but it’s yet to be determined whether we’ll have 4500 students on campus or 7000 students on campus,” Armstrong said.

The university will make a final decision about housing capacity in August after their plans are approved by the CSU and County Public Health, Armstrong said.

Armstrong added that he cannot confirm how each room will be priced next year, but he said he assumes single, double and triple rooms will be priced the same as they were this year. 

Financial aid for housing will still be available next year. 

In Spring 2020, University Housing refunded $20 million in total to students who moved back to their permanent residence. In addition, University Housing is in debt because they took out loans from the state to build more housing the past few years. 

Still, Cal Poly will not default on their debt, Armstrong said. 

“We won’t have zero risk of COVID,” in the residence halls, Armstrong said. “We will have some cases of COVID in the fall. Fortunately for students that are not vulnerable, the risk [for health complications] is very low.”

University Housing is developing a plan for sanitation, requiring face coverings and social distancing, but the plan is not yet solidified. They will clean the dorms more often than usual, Armstrong said. 

Correction: The story previously said that students could defer their housing contract until April if all of their fall classes are online. The story was updated June 25 to say that students can defer their housing contract until the start of winter quarter if all of their fall classes are online. 

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