October 23, 2021

Colleges plan for in-person classes this fall

SUNY Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College plan to have primarily in-person learning for the fall, officials from the colleges said Thursday, although details are still being worked out.

SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum announced in a letter this week to the school community an expected return of a full slate of in-person classes and on-campus activities.

“I’m very excited about it,” Bitterbaum said Thursday. “It’s been a very difficult year.”

The spring semester at SUNY Cortland has seen a 50% reduction in the number of students living on campus, down to about 1,650 students, Bitterbaum said previously. More students lived off campus.

Some students decided to learn remotely from their permanent homes to save housing costs; others took a semester off, college Communications Director Fred Pierce has said.

The college reported that 6,832 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled last fall, although how many lived on campus vs. off campus was not available.

Bitterbaum said Thursday that SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras is creating a council of public health experts and doctors to develop guidelines for the fall semester. Once those are developed, SUNY Cortland can work on details for the fall.

“We’re looking forward to whatever they suggest,” Bitterbaum said.

Bitterbaum said he hopes by summer all members of the college community will have been vaccinated, but said masks may still be required in the fall. Social distancing will also be considered.

Bitterbaum didn’t have details on how in-person classes during fall 2021 will work next fall, but said it will probably more closely resemble how classes operated in 2019 than 2020.

Tompkins Cortland Community College is also awaiting state guidelines for how courses can be held in the fall, said Deb Mohlenhoff, the associate vice president for college relations.

“It is our goal to really go back to as many in-person classes as possible,” she said.

Like SUNY Cortland, TC3 has also seen fewer students on campus and fully in-person classes, Mohlenhoff said.

Details, including spacing for social distancing, will be developed over the coming months into the summer.

Mohlenhoff did say the college will likely maintain a lower number of students living on campus next semester. For the 2020-21 school year, about 175 students have lived on campus, down from the pre-pandemic range of 400 to 450.

Questions as well regarding student vaccinations will also have to be worked out as plans are being developed, she said.

Both colleges will keep forms of remote learning available next year, Bitterbaum and Mohlenhoff said. However, SUNY Cortland will look to have the majority of classes in-person.

Bitterbaum and Mohlenhoff said more details will be released through the summer once they have more details from state guidelines.

“We miss our students a lot,” Mohlenhoff said. “We miss the vibrancy of the campus.”