December 1, 2021

SUNY thinking of spring

Colleges looking ahead to plans for next semester

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Lori Keep shovels snow Wednesday outside SUNY Cortland’s Brockway Hall. Colleges across New York, including SUNY Cortland, are crafting their plans for the spring semester during the coronavirus pandemic.

Students weren’t the only ones learning on college campuses this semester.

Administrators adjusted every part of the college experience to abide by COVID-19 safety guidelines, everything from how classes were taught to how students were housed.

“It was a learning experience,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum on Wednesday.

And the college is about to do it all over again, as it and Tompkins Cortland Community College expected to submit plans Thursday to the State University of New York administration on how to conduct the spring semester.

While he wouldn’t comment specifically on what plans might include, Bitterbaum said the focus will be on carrying over what worked well during the fall semester into the spring and improving what didn’t work well.

“Lessons learned in the fall will be instituted in the spring,” he said.

Since the start of the semester in August, SUNY Cortland has seen 765 confirmed cases with 763 recovered cases, according to the school’s COVID-19 tracker. There are two current positive cases in the two week reporting period that began Dec. 5 and ends Dec. 18.

The school went to remote learning Oct. 7 and stayed that way for the rest of the semester.

Students, faculty and all members on campus will be required to get tested upon return to campus, even if they test at home prior to arrival, to help protect the community. Testing will continue all semester long as well.

Classes will resume Feb. 1, which is a week later than usual, Bitterbaum said and there will be no spring break but the length of the semester won’t change. Expect classes to operate in a similar manner as this fall.

Most were remote-only, but some were taught as hybrid — partially remote and partially in-person.

Tompkins Cortland Community College was also finalizing plans to submit to SUNY, said Deb Mohlenhoff, the associate vice president of college relations.

The plans will be similar to the school’s fall plans — which had a majority of students learning remotely — but with some potential changes that were still being worked out, she said.

Unlike SUNY Cortland, students returning to campus will be able to show proof of a negative COVID test from three days before their return or test once on campus.

Anyone who comes to campus on a regular basis will be required to participate in surveillance testing, as well.

The school has had 20 confirmed cases with 1,365 tests administered since the start of the semester, according to the SUNY Covid dashboard.

Mohlenhoff said she didn’t know when the college will hear from SUNY but once it does, its plans will be published on the school’s website.

As for the spring, she said she was “cautiously optimistic that things will turn around,” but added that recent spikes in coronavirus cases in Cortland and Tompkins counties have been disheartening.

“We’re holding our breath and watching whenever Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo makes any announcements,” she said.