Base Plan Outlined and Open For Feedback

Clarkson University plans to welcome students back to its main campus in Potsdam and the Capital Region Campus in Schenectady in August 2020, and later in the fall semester for the Beacon Institute for Rivers & Estuaries.  It is important to note that, at this point, reopening requires New York State (NYS) approval using guidance from New York State, the CDC and local public health representatives and the forthcoming Forward New York Plan parameters for higher education.  We anticipate getting this information from NYS very soon and we also recognize your need to plan just as we are formulating a game plan, too.

Given all of the current constraints and complexities under rigorous review by the University Restart Task Force and its faculty experts advisory panel, we have developed a base plan to reopen the Potsdam campus for students earlier than usual in August that does not deviate significantly from a “normal” fall semester by ending at Thanksgiving.  At this time, this base plan has the most plausible options to keep our entire community safe while delivering a residential education that remains true to the Clarkson experience.  

We understand that a change in start date may intersect with vacation or field work plans. Whether through asynchronous learning or team teaching, we will work with you to make an individual plan work. 

While some different scenarios continue to be reviewed, we want to gather your input on the outline of the base plan for the Potsdam campus. There will be a survey link at the end of this summary of the base plan as well as an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to get further involved in the Restart Plans to further look at the scenarios and details under consideration

The lead scenario base plan: Revised Calendar for Potsdam Undergraduates and some semester-based Potsdam graduate programs (e.g.,  research graduate programs)  

  • In-person instruction will begin on Monday, August 17 and final exams will conclude  before the Thanksgiving holiday. 
  • First-year students would return Thursday, August 13 and Friday, August 14, with the other classes returning over the next several days.
  • This scenario avoids the traditional flu season, which we have been advised to limit overlap; gives our community more warm weather days to take advantage of outdoor learning and open-air classrooms; and gives families more quality time with their students during the Thanksgiving and winter holidays.   
  • Online classes and experiential learning/short-course professional experiences for students will be offered in a new December-January term.  At this point we are anticipating a “normal” spring semester. 
  • For the fall semester, we will offer experiential service learning, affinity-group activities and co-curricular activities as alternatives to fall breaks and ask all students to remain in the North Country for the duration of the fall semester to limit spread of COVID-19.   We will also limit all visitors to campus as well as large gatherings based on guidelines from NYS.  This includes hosting virtual events for Career Fair supplemented by virtual industry-based fairs, Family Weekend, etc.  We will fully leverage our 640-acre campus to promote safe and healthy outdoor wellness experiences. 
  • For the fall semester, the University will not fund non-essential travel and encourages all members of the community to self-limit personal travel even within the North Country region. 
  • All of the athletic leagues for our varsity sports teams are moving forward and are evaluating the best ways to hold their fall and winter seasons to ensure that student athletes are able to compete in a safe and healthy manner. In this scenario, students in winter sports could remain on campus during the December-January term, with a brief holiday.

Under this lead scenario and all scenarios that involve in-person instruction;

  • State directives on testing for COVID-19 are still fluid.  We understand students may be asked to get a COVID-19 test seven days before coming to campus.   We are also committed to test systematically and contact trace anyone testing positive for COVID-19 in close concert with our St. Lawrence Health System and County Public Health partners.  With all four colleges in the region, we are looking at phone apps that could quickly help identify in a confidential manner exposure to people who tested positive. 
  • We will have technology in all classrooms and academic service areas to support remote, online learning for those who may need this option from high-risk groups with compromised immune systems; or who may need to undergo isolation/quarantine protocols or have other extenuating circumstances that require them to be off campus for extended periods of time. Some classes will be delivered online and/or blended to accommodate the reduced occupancy of classrooms that is anticipated to be part of NYS directives. 
  • In addition to modifications to office and reception spaces, we are creating new learning spaces that will benefit our teaching capacities and benefit future semesters for innovative learning experiences.  We will ensure access to the appropriate technology devices for remote learning as well as access to software. 

Still under consideration:  

  • Delivering more faculty team-taught courses to ensure access to educators in smaller groups;
  • Doing more cohort-based scheduling and housing to reduce the number of interactions among students only in the fall semester; We currently are looking at 20 minutes between classes to reduce density and to recirculate air systems.
  • Pre-ordered dining options to package your preferred food choices individually for pick up.  We anticipate public health directives may reduce buffet options and some cooked to order options during the fall.
  • Contents of the student welcome package and protocols for a care team for students  – a mask, a tote,  the social contract, protocols, etc

The Most Important Factor in the Success for Fall 2020: YOU and Your Behavior

The number one factor that will drive our reopening success is our collective commitment to  protect each other.  We must each ensure our personal behavior and acceptance of responsibility is modelled not only for our own protection but for the safety of those who collaborate with us, educate us and otherwise serve us on campus and in the wider community. 

Wearing masks indoors and when in close-proximity to others in public spaces dramatically reduces coronavirus transmission. Each member of the Clarkson community will be given a mask in addition to those they may bring themselves. We will all be expected to wear a mask according to the directives health and safety experts have created.  Coupled with a rigorous hygiene routine and mindful social distancing, facial coverings will do more to protect each other than all of the additional measures we are taking for disinfecting, installations of plexiglass-barriers, air-handling/HVAC changes etc.

Members of the Clarkson community who would like to work on a social contract for each of us to abide by during this new experience together, are encouraged to share their interest on the survey.  We can open safely and offer an educational experience that is second to none.  

Please complete the survey to share your feedback on the base plan and provide further comments and considerations if interested.

Restart Task Force Leads 

Academic Affairs 315-268-6544, Robyn Hannigan; Office Hours Tuesdays 12-1 and Thursdays 1-2

Communications, 315-268-4499,  Kelly Chezum
Office hours:
Tuesdays Noon to 12:30pm and Thursdays 1pm to 1:30pm; or by request

Facilities & Infrastructure – 315-268-6718, Joshua Fiske, Office ours by appointment

Student Affairs & Residence Life, 315-268-6419, Brian Grant; Open Office Hours: Wednesdays 12:30-1:00 pm and Fridays Noon to 12:30 pm

Personnel & Policies, 315-268-3788, Amy McGaharen, Monday 8-10, Tues 8-10, Thur- 12-2 – Please call for preferred access. 

For a complete list of the task foramcgahera@clarkson.educe subgroups and members, please go to:   

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