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New York Colleges Prep for Fall Opening with State Guidance

Now in Phase IV of New York’s reopening plan, higher education institutions in the region are cleared to begin the process of restarting campus operations and move forward with fall semester plans.

by Ellis Giacomelli, Watertown Daily Times / July 6, 2020
Bodleian Library, Oxford University.

(TNS) — With the north country now in Phase IV of New York’s reopening plan, higher education institutions in the region are cleared to begin the process of restarting campus operations and move forward with fall semester plans.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on June 24 announced five regions, including the north country, would be on track to enter Phase IV on June 26. Now, seven of the state’s 10 regions have entered Phase IV, with the Mid-Hudson and Long Island regions in Phase III, and New York City in Phase II.

The New York State Department of Health has issued a 14-page document of detailed guidelines, updated June 28, for higher education institutions, including community and junior colleges, universities, graduate and professional schools, medical schools and technical schools.

The guidelines outline 22 subtopics across four major categories — reopening, monitoring, containment and shutdown — that institutions must cover in restart plans. Reopening, the largest of the four categories, details nine subtopics dealing with capacity, personal protective equipment, testing, residential living, operational activity, restart operations, vulnerable populations and hygiene, cleaning and disinfection.

Crossover operations at institutions — dining halls as food service industries or campus shuttles falling under the transportation industry, for example — will be required to abide by industry-specific guidelines.

“These guidelines are minimum requirements only, and each institution is free to provide additional precautions or increased restrictions,” the higher education guidance document reads in part. “These guidelines are based on the best-known public health practices at the time of publication, and the documentation upon which these guidelines are based can and does change frequently.”

The full guidance document is viewable on the Reopening New York website,

With reopening task forces taking slightly different approaches to fall semester reopenings, five north country colleges have plans in place for August, just a month away.

St. Lawrence University officials have announced fall semester classes will begin Aug. 26, with finals concluding Dec. 11. SLU’s fall mid-semester break is canceled, and those who choose to leave for Thanksgiving break, Nov. 25 through 29, will be required to complete the remainder of the semester, including finals, at home. All coursework after Thanksgiving, including final exams, will be conducted remotely to accommodate those who wish to depart at Thanksgiving.

For the spring 2021 semester, classes are expected to begin Jan. 4, with finals concluding April 16. Mid-semester and spring breaks will be canceled.

SLU plans to implement hybrid instruction, with most classes offered through a combination of in-person and virtual instruction. Faculty will have discretion to teach in-person, remotely or in combined modes.

A Social Contract Code of Conduct has been developed, and students will be asked to sign the contract, consenting to be tested for the novel coronavirus when they arrive on campus, about two weeks later and at other times throughout the semester. The contract also incorporates information about physical distancing, wearing masks and limited use of public spaces.

The fall semester for Canton will begin Aug. 31, and students will be allowed to begin returning to campus Aug. 27. All classes will take place remotely at first, and some classes will transition to face-to-face or hybrid instruction once testing has been completed.

The university is instructing students to self-quarantine at their homes for at least seven days prior to coming to campus, and all students will briefly continue to quarantine as they move into residence halls and undergo testing.

Commuter students will need to undergo testing either through their own health provider or through testing that will be available on campus. Students will be released from quarantine after they test negative.

Classes will continue without any breaks until the Thanksgiving recess, which is scheduled for Nov. 21 through 29. The remainder of the semester, including final exams, will be held remotely. Students will be strongly discouraged from leaving St. Lawrence County during the semester.

“While there are still many unknowns about the virus, we do know that masks help slow the spread of germs, and increasing your distance from someone decreases the ability to spread the virus,” SUNY Canton President Zvi Szafran said in a statement. “We want to make sure that we do everything we can to protect our students, faculty, staff and those around us.”

Clarkson’s on-campus semester will begin Aug. 19, with students within a convenient driving distance allowed to drop off belongings during scheduled slots July 22 through 29. All other students will begin arriving to campus Aug. 16. Final exams will conclude just before Thanksgiving.

Clarkson officials have determined the earlier-than-normal start and finish to the semester avoids flu season on campus and will allow for online classes, experiential learning and short-course professional experiences in a new December through January term.

“If better processes, practices and procedures emerge we will make those adjustments,” Clarkson’s restart task force wrote in a July 1 message to the campus community. “Similarly, if we are required to enact more stringent requirements, we will make those adjustments. In both cases we will inform you as soon as is practical.”

SUNY Potsdam on Friday announced its reopening plan and received final approval from the governor’s office and SUNY administration.

As outlined in its plan, classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 31, with students arriving on campus about a week prior. The academic calendar will be compressed, so that fall break is canceled. Students will return home at Thanksgiving break, at which point all remaining instruction and finals will be virtual. A mix of in-person, virtual and hybrid learning experiences is planned for the fall.

The university reports it is prepared to house all students who wish to live on campus, and move-in times will be staggered over several days to ensure proper social distancing. Accommodations for students with health concerns will be made so they can complete their studies virtually or receive arrangements through the medical housing process.

Protocols are also in place for testing, tracing, daily health screenings, personal protective equipment, social distancing and hygiene and disinfection standards.

COVID-19 testing will be required for returning students, based on final guidance and approval from the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department

“The most important element in making this semester safe and successful is our commitment to one another,” President Kristin G. Esterberg said.

Like SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam semesters, the JCC semester will begin Aug. 31.

The college plans to offer a variety of course styles, with in-person classes only being offered for technical courses or labs.

In some cases, hybrid classes will be offered for courses, such as hospitality management and biology, that incorporate both lectures and labs. Some courses will be taught synchronously, virtually “live” by the instructor during scheduled meeting times, and others asynchronously, which does not require students to meet virtually at specified times.

Athletic program guidelines from athletic conferences and the state are forthcoming. More information about each institution’s reopening plan is available on their respective websites.

©2020 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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