Several weeks after Gov. Cuomo announced his higher education guidance for New York, Queens’ colleges and universities have begun to release bits and pieces of their reopening plans.
At public universities across the borough, reopenings will be minimal and gradual. In short statements that each CUNY campus has released to Chronicle, the plan is unanimously to primarily offer courses online whenever practical for the fall 2020 semester, with a few course exceptions.
Over at St. John’s University, Queens’ largest private school, reopenings are taking a different shape. For one thing, the administration has put together the most concrete reopening plan of any college in the borough. For another it is the only school in Queens to open up its residence halls to students.
Cuomo’s data-driven guidance mandates that college reopenings are contingent on the daily infection rate remaining below 5 percent or lower using a 14-day average. He has also warned that it is likely that the virus will make a return to New York through travelers as long as it continues to rage across the South and West.
CUNY campuses have responded with caution about the potential for another surge in the fall.
“I wish I could know what the future will bring, and say with clarity what the upcoming months will look like,” wrote CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodr’guez on July 14.
Rodr’guez added that 48 percent of the fall courses open for student registration are already scheduled for hybrid or online delivery. Each CUNY campus has formed a committee to develop personalized plans that are consistent with Cuomo’s guidelines.
A spokesperson for Queens College said that it intends to offer its academic courses primarily online, with exceptions for courses and services that cannot be delivered at a distance.
LaGuardia Community College is still waiting on its enrollment numbers to make any announcements because its unique academic calendar means that fall classes don’t start for nearly two months.
A spokesperson for York College said that classes will continue to follow the remote model through the summer semester, and beyond as necessary, with the exception of laboratory components. The expansion of on-site instruction will be gradual.
Queensborough Community College plans to deliver most of its instruction and support services by distance this fall.
St. John’s, on the other hand, said that it is committed to a resumption of classes taught both in-person and via remote formats, and residential experience.
The university’s plan cited how the needs of students like those experiencing homelessness and those with unsafe home situations made it necessary to reopen residences. The plan also noted that in-person courses will not be an option for everyone.
But residences will have to be transformed as well. Lounges may be closed for the semester, and other spaces will be reconfigured with fewer chairs and floor markings and signs to facilitate social distancing. The campus has also eliminated triple and quad occupancy rooms, and added guest restrictions.
Each day, students will fill out an online “COVID 19 Symptom Screening” questionnaire that will determine whether they should stay home or in their residence prior to entering campus.
Courses, however, will be offered in a combination of formats that range from in-person to hybrid or fully online, with the university noting that faculty, administrators and staff may be unable to return due to health considerations of their own or of a loved one.
Like St. John’s, private engineering school Vaughn College is planning for a fall 2020 mix of limited face-to-face, Zoom and traditional asynchronous online courses to best accommodate the needs of students and faculty.