Campuses prepare for spring amid virus

SUNY Potsdam’s Satterlee Hall. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — As an unparalleled college semester comes to a close, area universities are preparing for spring — delayed starts, no spring breaks and continued testing for the novel coronavirus.

The on-campus term at the four Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley — SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Canton, Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University — ends with the start of Thanksgiving break next week. The State University of New York is requiring all students to test negative for the coronavirus prior to traveling home for the semester, while exit testing at Clarkson and SLU is optional.

In concert with the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department, Canton and Potsdam municipal officials and one another, the Associated Colleges have developed spring plans based on fall semester protocols and with flexibility in mind.

Earlier this month, SUNY issued system-wide policies for the spring term, which will be facilitated remotely prior to Feb. 1 “to minimize additional risks associated with influenza season.” SUNY campuses will not observe spring breaks, though mid-week reading days can be built in throughout the semester.

Arrival and surveillance testing, mask requirements and gathering restrictions — which will depend on adjusted state guidance on gatherings — will remain in place, as will SUNY’s uniform sanctions introduced in September. Academic suspensions, restricted housing access or permanent dismissal can be imposed for intentional COVID-19 protocol violations, failing to self-quarantine or isolate, hosting or attending prohibited gatherings or repeated offenses.

“We’ve demonstrated this past fall that by implementing an aggressive strategy to manage COVID, students can safely return to campus,” SUNY Chancellor James J. Malatras said earlier this month. “These additional efforts — testing all students upon return, ongoing testing throughout the semester, pushing out the start of the spring semester and mandatory masks at all times, coupled with uniform enforcement and compliance — illustrates that SUNY is setting a nationwide standard for controlling COVID-19 in the weeks and months to come.”

Under state policy, SUNY Canton, SUNY Potsdam and Jefferson Community College, Watertown, will require all students to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival during phased move-ins at the end of January, with in-person courses beginning Feb. 1. Students must also attest to completing a seven-day precautionary quarantine before arriving for the semester.

SUNY Potsdam is planning a two-week virtual period starting Feb. 1, before shifting to in-person and hybrid instruction in mid-February. JCC classes are set to begin remotely Jan. 25, with relevant classes taught in-person after Feb. 1.

At Clarkson University, Potsdam, phased move-in will begin Jan. 17, for students not needing to complete a mandatory two-week quarantine. Out-of-state and international students are scheduled to return in early January, and all students will be required to submit a negative test result received within seven days prior to arriving on campus.

A remote start for all students is set for Jan. 13, and in-person classes will resume Jan. 18. Like JCC — which has redistributed the consecutive days of its spring break in single days throughout the semester — Clarkson plans to restructure time off throughout the semester.

St. Lawrence University, Canton, has opted for an earlier remote start date, Jan. 4, with staggered move-in and mandatory arrival testing, beginning Jan. 8. SLU’s move-in plan permits one person to accompany students, but that person is not allowed to enter the residence halls.

The SLU semester will begin in Phase Zero with an initial precautionary quarantine and residence hall meal delivery until follow-up testing returns negative results. Once arrival testing is completed, the university may enter Phase One, which will require continued mask and gathering compliance and allow limited interaction and travel within St. Lawrence County.

Mid-semester and spring breaks are canceled, and SLU finals will end April 16, according to the university’s current schedule.

Since Aug. 1, the Associated Colleges have conducted a total of more than 44,000 individual student and staff virus tests, and campus wastewater surveillance testing systems have been installed at Clarkson, SLU and SUNY Canton.

There are currently three active cases at SUNY Potsdam, three at SUNY Canton and one each at SLU and Clarkson. Zero cases are currently active at JCC.

Full spring plans from SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Canton and JCC are due to the state in December. Updated information about each school’s spring semester is viewable on their respective websites.

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