Restart: Fall Semester to Start August 19


NYS Interim Guidance for Higher Education Released this Past Weekend

In this communication: 

·       New Dates for Fall Semester Classes- August 19-November 24, 2020 in person in Potsdam.

·       No date changes in calendar for professional health sciences programs in Potsdam or our semester and quarter-based graduate programs at the Capital Region and Beacon campuses.  Modality in terms of in-person, online or hybrid options remain  the same.

·       Vulnerable populations and students who are not comfortable can still safely participate in remote education and online learning.  

·       Students for in-person education need COVID-19 test within 7 calendar days prior to arrival on campus. No one with a positive test is allowed to arrive on campus. Additional testing is planned during the semester. 

·       Early and staggered move-in dates for residential students – information will come by July 10

·       Employees and some graduate students returning to campuses now

·       Thank you to 800+ survey respondents on our base-plan to reopen.

·       NYS Interim Guidance to Higher Education issued on June 20 – We will meet all mandates.  More information being finalized on academic plans, housing, health monitoring to respond to specifics within the mandates and other recommendations from NYS and local public health representatives.

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Fall Semester to Start August 19 

Interim Guidance to Higher Education Issued by NYS This Past Weekend

To the Clarkson Community,

We hope this message finds you and your family safe, well and finding ways to enjoy summer and time together.  

As part of the Forward New York plan to reopen the State, Governor Cuomo outlined on a slide in his daily COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday, June 18 the parameters for guidance to the higher education sector to reopen to students for in-person education and residential life.  Comprehensive interim guidance was posted on Saturday afternoon, June 20 by New York State.

Since the release was issued and in active participation in a state-wide meeting on Monday morning with colleagues from across New York, Clarkson’s Restart Team leads have confirmed to me last night that we are future ready.  We will meet and/or exceed all of the mandatory requirements put forth by NYS and we already have been in active scenario-planning dialogue regarding most of the recommended best practices in the newly issued guidance. 

This short communication conveys the essential logistics for the return to campus in August, focused largely on dates. It also covers individuals arriving earlier to prepare for the opening of campus.  There will be more follow up communications with specific action items for students and employees on segmented topics as appropriate.  

Communications with the final detailed plans and information based on the newly issued guidance are in the works.  These include safety and wellness protocols, housing, health monitoring, orientation and your class schedules  — there are some really exciting course structuring and technology developments coming on this latter front that will make your academic experience even better into the future. 

Using the outcomes from rigorous scenario planning, counsel from our faculty experts panel, and robust new safety measures being implemented as part of NYS and federal protocols, we plan to begin the fall semester in Potsdam on Wednesday, August 19 and end it on Tuesday, November 24, 2020,with a graduation ceremony taking place that evening for those students completing their degrees.  These are date changes to what has previously been published.  

There are no changes in the academic calendar for our professional health sciences programs in Potsdam or our semester and quarter-based graduate programs at the Capital Region and Beacon campuses.  Modality in terms of in-person, online or hybrid options remain the same.  If you need accommodation to not be in-person or have questions, please contact your program’s director. 

Undergraduate student move-in to the Potsdam campus will be staggered over multiple days to reduce the density on the residence hall floors.  Students from an easy driving distance will be asked in a separate communication if they can sign up for an earlier date to move the majority of their personal items into residence halls and then return to their home until the evening before classes resume on August 19.  All other students, including fall sports athletes, will get more information soon on the revised processes and requested arrival dates.  

For students attending in person classes in Potsdam, we are working closely in partnership with the St. Lawrence Health System (SLHS) and the County Board of Health on protocols.  Canton-Potsdam Hospital, within the SLHS, has been very prepared in responding to the pandemic and is fully ready for college students to return.    Students who do return to campus in person will need to undergo COVID-19 testing with RT-PCR (not serology). You must schedule this to be performed within 7 calendar days prior to arrival on campus. Students with a positive test prior to arrival will not be allowed to be present on campus in person.  More information is coming from our local health system on this topic and additional testing during the semester as part of systematic testing through the semester.  We recognize that not all states give access to on-demand testing as is available for NYS residents and we will need to set up a system to help those of you in this situation.  That is now being developed based on the guidance from local and state officials.  Most county public health websites will have information on testing sites near you and scheduling information if your own provider does not perform this service. 

Vulnerable populations in our community and students who are not comfortable returning can still safely participate in remote education and online learning with support services that will allow them to maintain progress towards completing their degree on time.  Undergraduate students who elect to attend remotely this semester and are remaining at home will need to have their financial aid package reviewed. Please contact your Student Administrative Services representative if you are a returning student and first-year students can contact the Office of New Student Financial Aid.   More information will be forthcoming.  Employees should respond to their supervisor based on previous communications directly to this group.   

Three weeks ago, Clarkson began surveying the greater Clarkson Community of faculty, staff, students, parents and community residents  to get feedback on a base plan that our Restart Teams projected to have the most plausible options to keep the community safe, while still delivering undergraduates a residential life that was true to the Clarkson experience.  Thank you to the numerous stakeholders who responded, and especially our students.  Your survey data and open-ended comments were used real-time in scenario review sessions and are also adding to the plans being put in place. 

Regarding start-dates, the survey results demonstrated that Clarkson community members campus overwhelmingly appreciated the justifications for starting and ending the semester earlier for the Potsdam campus  in order to take advantage of the late summer’s good weather, reducing chances for transmission by minimizing travel, and to avoid overlap with the traditional flu season.  We will be soon providing more information about options in the new ‘winter-term’ from December-January.  We are currently planning for classes in the spring semester to begin on January 13, 2021 –  one day earlier than originally scheduled to balance the shortened fall semester calendar.   

Returning students with internships and co-ops asked for a slight delay from the original proposed dates to give them more time to meet employer obligations and return to campus. We know some students have pre-arranged travel plans and vacations that will delay arrival. We expect all residential students to be on campus no later than August 30.  To the extent possible, for these students who will arrive later please participate remotely in your classes and communicate with Jim Pittman, Dean of Students if you will have a delayed arrival for residential living.  COVID testing will still need to be completed. 

For the Potsdam campus and the North Country region, which is now in Phase III of Gov. Cuomo’s reopening plan, some employees based on their job duties have already begun to return to work while others continue to perform their duties remotely.  The same principles are in place with a few employees returning to their work spaces for our Capital Region Campus in Schenectady, which has just entered Phase III, and the Beacon campus in the Hudson Valley still finishing Phase II.

Guided by public health directives and guidelines from federal, state and county professionals that have been established for other industries by the Forward New York Plan, we have already brought back more than 165 faculty and graduate students to relaunch research in our laboratories on our main campus and return to campus-based academic life. This is in addition to the dedicated work of the facilities and grounds crews who are doubling down on disinfecting and cleaning practices, as well as building out new safety measures in our facilities.  We also have members of our Information Technology team installing more technology in classrooms to ensure remote access for members of our community who need online and recorded access.   

Graduate students enrolled in the Lewis School of Health Sciences’ physician assistant program were trained on COVID-19 testing practices last week and began in-person courses this month towards their future roles as members of the essential workforce in healthcare.   

Color-coded signage is being placed throughout campus to help remind us of the protective measures public health is sharing: red stands for NYS directives that must be followed such as wearing a mask in public spaces/classrooms when around co-workers/students; yellow are guidelines such as how to wash your hands effectively; and green are good-to-know things like seminars faculty and staff are sharing to further explain the science and systems behind prevention methods.  To help people gauge six-feet, we are also adding spaced out floor signage and some fun examples like it’s one inch less than the 73” hockey stick for our 6’7” Golden Knight Connor McCarthy ‘21.   We are also installing one-way directional traffic directions for travel in/out of buildings, indoor common areas, and rooms.

At present, we are restricting access to our campuses to meet current density guidelines issued by NYS for the Phase we are in, doing online training on safety protocols and employees have a series of check-in/check-out routines which have been explained in a previous communication.  Students will get communications later in July about daily routines and specific training on safety measures.  

Employees should continue to work through their managers/department chairs to request return to campus and then connect with HR to confirm completion of all safety training and that office spaces are ready for their return to work.  Current and prospective students and parents who believe they need to be on campus should contact Brian Grant, VP for Enrollment and Student Advancement to discuss the arrangements.  

For our Potsdam undergraduate and semester-based research graduate programs, there will be no official fall break (there will be days structured as alternatives to breaks), and instruction will end on November 24. In an effort to minimize travel, and possible transmission of the virus, students will not return until the start of Spring semester. As of now we are planning for the spring semester to begin January 13, 2021.  Students will be informed no later than the last day of the fall semester if this date changes.  

Students in winter sports and others with special needs can remain on campus.  While students, on the survey, commented that they would miss the traditional breaks during the fall semester, many indicated that they often don’t go home over those breaks and so are looking forward to defining meaningful ways to leverage some of the ‘open days’ during the semester to participate in service opportunities across North Country and to complete affinity group projects during those periods.   

With a longer break between the fall and spring semesters, we are working with our employers and alumni community to create new opportunities for students to gain professional experiences, engage in research and professional development, and hone new skills.  Students will receive more information about these opportunities as the fall semester progresses.

We will be posting regular updates on the website, as we move through the NYS process, our own decision-making steps and how we are responding to fluid circumstances.

Throughout this reopening, we remain committed to the safety and wellness of everyone in our community.   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 bring themselves. We will all be expected to wear a mask in public spaces, classrooms, etc and be ready to put one on when we .    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 barriers, air-handling/HVAC changes etc.

We are also committed to make every engagement we have with each other and our greater Clarkson community count under challenging circumstances– even if we have to now social distance more to meet the guidelines given to us by government agencies, we are creating new ways to stay connected and together.  Using 2020 as a backdrop for learning how to think, act and lead globally — not just in responding to COVID-19 but also by embracing diversity and inclusion to lead in creative and innovative ways — we will continue to prepare global leaders. 

We are sure you have more questions.  More information is now being pulled together as we further respond to the  interim guidelines issued over the weekend.  We appreciate your patience as we work through the fluidity of some of the information shared and get more clarity as well.  

Enjoy the rest of summer, look for more segmented communications and we will see you all soon.  

Tony Collins, President

Restart Task Leads

Robyn Hannigan, Provost
Brian Grant, VP for Enrollment & Student Affairs 
Kelly Chezum, VP for External Relations
Amy McGaharen Chief Human Resources Officer
Josh Fiske, Chief Information Officer / Facilities & Infrastructure Lead

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