By Renée K. Gadoua | Contributing writer

Le Moyne College is awaiting New York state approval for a fall reopening plan that includes a new schedule, changes to residence halls, and hybrid teaching formats.

“My intention has always been to open for the fall semester and this plan does that in a responsible, thoughtful and deliberate way,” president Linda LeMura wrote in a June 16 letter.

The college’s announcement came as Central New York and four other regions approached Phase 4 of the state’s four-phase reopening plan. At the same time, confirmed coronavirus infections were increasing in more than 22 states.

Most businesses in New York have reopened, with limited capacity and social distancing guidelines. Malls, gyms, and movie theaters remain closed in the state, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to announce reopening guidelines for K-12 schools.

The governor said on June 28 that significantly increasing virus rates in other states threaten the state’s K-12 and college fall reopening plans. “I mean this is complicated so let’s get the facts and we’ll make the decision when we have to,” Cuomo said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But we’re prepared and if this continues across the country, you’re right, Chuck, kids are going to be home for a long time.”

Le Moyne’s reopening plan includes early arrival for first-year students, who will participate in a two-week course to meet each other and learn about the school. Returning students will arrive between Aug. 28 and 31, and classes will start Aug. 31.

Le Moyne will end in-person classes before Thanksgiving and will hold finals remotely, according to the college website. There will be no Labor Day or fall break to accommodate the shorter semester. Local colleges including Syracuse University and Cazenovia College have also shortened their fall academic schedules.

Professors will use a mix of in-person and remote learning to decrease classroom density.

The college “will implement other safety measures in classrooms including physical distancing, assigned seating and attendance tracking to facilitate contact tracing, cleaning materials, and face coverings,” the website says.

Students and employees “will be encouraged to self-quarantine for seven days before they return to campus” and must complete an online training “that will inform students and employees about the health behaviors expected and required during the fall semester,” the website says. “Completion of the mandatory educational module will be required for access to Le Moyne technology, resources, and space.”

Students and employees must complete daily health screening, then “either receive approval to engage in on-campus activities or be instructed not to attend work, class, or on-campus activities with instructions on their next steps.” Also, the college “will develop agreed-upon guidance for testing, reporting, and contact tracing with the Onondaga County Health Department.”

New York state on June 23 released guidelines for reopening colleges and universities. Its mandatory guidelines outline cleaning and health screening. Recommended best practices include reconfiguring spaces to ensure 6-foot social distancing; a mix of traditional and in-person and remote classes; and staggered schedules to reduce density.

Le Moyne’s in-person classes and on-campus events are suspended through July 31.

As colleges plan to resume classes about six months after the global pandemic shut down most businesses and services, college leaders across the nation are working to balance educational standards; the health of staff, students, and the local community; and the economic consequences of the pandemic.

Of universities that have released plans, about 60% plan to welcome students in-person in the fall, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. About 8% plan to offer courses fully online.

Le Moyne lost about $5 million from returned fees and lost income in the spring and summer. “We currently estimate that the college faces a drop in revenues of between $12 million to $24 million in the coming year,” said college spokesman Joe Della Posta.

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