University at Albany officials led a campus tour Friday to demonstrate how they plan to keep the community healthy and safe from COVID-19 this fall.
The impact of COVID-19 is apparent as you walk around the Washington Avenue campus. Arrows on pavement outside and floors inside mark directions of travel. Sanitizer dispensers are strategically placed in campus buildings. Each room displays a maximum occupancy sticker, numbers adjusted according to pandemic protocols. Other signage reminds students and visitors about wearing a mask and maintaining six-foot distancing.
Stephen Conard is UAlbany's Emergency Management Coordinator. He notes there have been modifications to classroom and instructional spaces at both uptown and downtown campuses leading up to Monday’s first day of classes.
"Classrooms have all been reduced, starting with a 50 percent capacity reduction, then overlaying the six-feet distance from every seat to the next student seat in the area, as well as for the faculty at the front of the classroom to have a six-foot barrier from the first row of students. Part of that to help, a little designated dot on the floor where the seat belongs to where you have to shift it, that's where the seat belongs to provide the six feet distance from the next person. In our larger areas like the campus center, there's floor signs as well as walls directional, to keep traffic moving."
Conard says 60 percent of returning students will be learning remotely while the remainder will attend classes in person or in a hybrid mode.
Conard says UAlbany has set guidelines for behavior that students had to agree to.
"All students did have to sign a pledge prior to coming to campus indicating their adherence and support to not only the mask wearing, but also the distancing and curtailing some of those large gatherings that we have seen at some other entities."
Students, faculty and staff health will be monitored via daily screenings and a smartphone health screening app. Isolation and quarantine housing is available for any student who tests positive for coronavirus.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for students will be the limits on events and social life.
Katherine LoNigro is a senior from Long Island. She works on campus but will attend class remotely.
"I definitely feel really lucky that we get to come back at all because I know some campuses don't, like they're not letting any students come back whatsoever. I wouldn't say I'm worried about anything. I'm just like, I'm hoping that everybody's gonna follow the guidelines the university has set. If we don't follow the rules, everyone's gonna go home. We don't wanna go home."
As of Friday, there were 4,650 residential students on campus. The normal pre-pandemic capacity is 7,800.