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Local colleges prepare to bring students back to campus amid uncertainty

Jun 4, 2020

Monroe Community College Downtown Campus
Credit James Brown / WXXI News

Monroe Community College Interim President Kate Douglas said she doesn’t like the term “reopening,” because she said the college never really closed. Classes moved online in mid-March due to the pandemic. 

Douglas said different work groups filled with more than 70 staffers are discussing how to safely bring students back in person this fall.

“One of them is called the facilities and operations work group and they have been going through every room on campus and revising what the room capacity would be,” Douglas said. 

She said the capacity of a lot of those rooms could be cut in half or more. That same work group is also considering limiting entrances, as well as talking about cutting back on seating or closing common areas. Douglas also said that students who use campus libraries and computers will have to sanitize them..

Douglas said these are just a few of the changes under consideration, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and SUNY leadership will decide when and how the college will reopen its campuses. Cuomo will also have a say in how private colleges reopen.

An email to the University of Rochester community from provost Robert Clark said they’re also developing 

Monroe Community College Interim President Kate Douglas
Credit Provided

plans and processes for re-opening campus this fall, which he said Cuomo must approve. 

The email suggests the development of an academic plan that unfolds in phases. Under that plan students in the Eastman School of Music and the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering would start ”in person instruction' in August as previously scheduled.” They’d also offer remote instruction for students who opt for that. 

“In order to reduce the amount of travel to and from the campus,” wrote Clark, “we would plan to omit the fall break in October and continue instruction through to the scheduled Thanksgiving break, with the expectation that students would return home at the Thanksgiving break, as they are able. Following Thanksgiving, instruction, including exams, would be completed online.”

Nazareth College spokesperson Julie Long said they’re taking similar precautions at that college, like installing touchless faucets, reducing density in classrooms, and making masks and gloves plentiful.

Long cited an essay on the college’s website where Nazareth College president Daan Braveman addressed the matter.

"We would like our parents and students, along with our faculty and staff, to feel confidence in all the protocols put in place to feel safe and secure on campus, and that is our mission. We are working harder than ever," said Braveman, who is retiring at the end of the month.

Rochester of Institute of Technology spokesperson Ellen Rosen said they have five different committees working on the subject but declined to provide details. St. John Fisher spokesperson Kate Torok said they're still evaluating the scenarios and have similar committees. SUNY Brockport spokesman John Follaco said the college has a reopening work group of its own.