SUNY Plattsburgh has issued its Fall 2020 Restart Plan. The 68-page document outlines physical and procedural changes the college has implemented to make the campus safer for students, faculty and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan says the college is working toward a “blended academic delivery model.” College President Dr. Alexander Enyedi tells WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley when college officials began working on the plan, they knew having a regular face to face semester would be impossible.
“We did a quick evaluation of classroom size and space in terms of occupancy. And it was very evident that when we began to take into account social distancing, large classes could not meet in the spaces that we have on campus. So right away we were considering well how do we deliver those large enrolled classes in a virtual remote way. And so as we began the planning process, we came to the quick realization that a blended semester would mean that students would be experiencing a fall here at SUNY Plattsburgh that would include some face to face, some distance or remote classes, and in some cases what we use is a hybrid where some of the class time would be in a face to face situation and the rest of the class would be offered online.”
Bradley: “Dr. Enyedi the college here at Plattsburgh is also making physical changes to what I believe I've heard you call it COVID capacity. Can you describe some of the physical changes that you're making?”
President Enyedi: “Sure. The term COVID capacity or meets COVID capacity is predicated on the understanding that we will adhere to local health department guidelines and the CDC guidelines in terms of spacing between individuals in a specific space. And so our facilities department has done an incredible amount of work the past two months to visit every classroom space, do measurements, and remove furniture, chairs to ensure that when that classroom is used that every student and the faculty member is going to be appropriately spaced apart from each other. So there's been that aspect of infrastructure modifications have been going on. In open spaces that aren't used for instruction, for example gathering areas, we have been physically removing chairs and if things are attached to the floor those things have been removed as well so that now we have the capacity to say that those spaces meet the COVID requirements for social distancing and staying apart. Some of the other infrastructure changes that have occurred: We have upgraded our filtration systems on campus. It exceeds the recommended filtration capacity for air handling and air circulation. In addition to that we're actually building two small rooms adjacent to the health clinic that will help us with triage and meeting with potential student patients who may present with COVID symptoms. Another activity that's occurred has been a tremendous amount of signage that's been applied to campus. And I think the last modification that we've had it's more of a policy modification. We have instituted a new policy with respect to face masks and social distancing. Face mask policy is pretty simple. If you're inside a building here on campus you will be required to maintain your face mask up at all times and that in that includes whether you're inside a classroom or in a food service area.”
Bradley: “So when it does come to masks, how does that work in residence halls?”
Dr. Enyedi: “The moment you step through the threshold of your door your mask must be up.”
Bradley: “Doctor Enyedi you're overseeing a youthful population that tends to either in the past they’ve believed they can’t get the virus. We've heard about parties challenging others to get the virus. You know, they're in an age group that can be challenging at times. What do you expect from the students this fall? Do you think they'll take it seriously or do you think there will be problems enforcing use of masks or social distancing?”
Enyedi: “We've actually, you know, thought about that to a great deal on campus. And one of the opportunities that we've got right now and we're taking advantage of that opportunity is to provide some messaging and education to our students about the critical importance of adhering to these very straightforward policies of wearing your masks, ensuring that you’re social distancing, limiting your time in large groups, and certainly not gathering in large groups. And we've created the Cardinal Pledge. And the Cardinal Pledge is again another mechanism that we provide to students to just keep at the forefront the importance of just following these straightforward guidelines. And if we all work together, and we are together in this, we can have a successful semester.”
A phased-in return of SUNY Plattsburgh students begins on August 18th and classes start August 24th.
An extended conversation with college President Dr. Alexander Enyedi is available on the WAMC News Podcast.