SARATOGA SPRINGS - Skidmore College on July 2 announced their fall semester plan that covers everything from Academic Instruction and Residential Life to Campus Life and Engagement.
The plan – introduced as an ongoing work-in-progress - will continue to be refined, Skidmore College President Marc C. Conner said in a statement. Conner - the eighth president of the college – began his term July 1.
The fall semester will begin two weeks early, on Aug. 24, and conclude on Friday, Nov. 20, prior to Thanksgiving week. Students will finish exams and final projects remotely. There will not be any break during the fall term.
All major public events that would bring large numbers of visitors to campus, such as Celebration Weekend, Homecoming and the Presidential Inauguration, will be shifted to virtual experiences.
“As we have been emphasizing for many weeks, our primary commitment in all of these efforts is the health and safety of our entire community — students, staff, faculty and the surrounding Saratoga Springs community of which we are a part,” Conner said. “Our second commitment is to make possible the Skidmore education as we all value it: high-quality, fully engaged teaching and learning, performed with creativity and skill by superb faculty and staff.”
All students must complete a daily symptom check for seven days prior to their return to campus. and there are plans to have all employees undergo a COVID-19 test prior to returning to work.
Regarding academic instruction: a certain percentage of fall courses will be offered in a remote mode. It is anticipated most classes — estimated to be approximately two-thirds of the classes — will likely be some form of in-person instruction. The exact mode for each class will be determined in the coming weeks and this information will be made available to students by late July.
“Many of the events of typical college social life simply cannot occur this fall. That must be understood by all of us. We will employ technology to make possible group events such as speakers, performances and other programs and events so we can still have communal events, even if they are not in person in the same way,” Conner said.
Academic spaces, classrooms, labs and performance spaces will be reconfigured to accommodate health guidelines. Classrooms will include social distancing spacing, personal protective equipment, including plexiglass where appropriate, enhanced cleaning protocols and more. Outdoor classroom options are additionally being explored.
Residential space for students will allow for appropriate social distancing, maintain standards of health and safety, and prevent too much social density in residential spaces. No more than two students will be housed per room for the academic year. There will be no triple-occupancy rooms. Apartment spaces, which consist of single rooms only, will operating at full occupancy.
“In order to bring all, or nearly all, of our student body to Skidmore, we are arranging for housing in local hotels, consisting of both double and single rooms, comparable to a residence hall living arrangement,” Conner said. Shuttle buses and parking will be available to students living in these hotels.
Seating, layout and foot-traffic flow in Murray-Aikins Dining Hall will be modified to provide for necessary social distancing. Outside seating will be increased with the use of tents. Hours for all dining locations will be slightly modified to allow for cleaning between meals.
To reduce personal contact and limit large group gatherings, students should expect an increased offering of online events, virtual community-building and outdoor activities.
The athletics and fitness schedule will be modified, and fan attendance will either be significantly reduced or eliminated as an in-person experience.
Facemasks will always be required in all public settings, regardless of distancing or room capacity. There will be different requirements for residential spaces. Each student, upon arrival, will receive a starter kit of personal protective equipment (PPE) consisting of two Skidmore reusable facemasks and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Similarly, each employee will receive the PPE starter kit upon returning to campus. Hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout campus. Safe passage routes, signage and directions will be created to minimize density. Daily and deep-cleaning protocols will be established throughout the campus.
Gatherings on campus will be limited to no more than what health officials’ safety guidelines recommend, always with appropriate distancing and masking. The guidelines are likely to change during the semester.
Testing requirements will be implemented in correspondence with CDC and New York state guidelines. Several testing timelines are under consideration, which could include requiring testing prior to arrival for students, testing on arrival to campus and subsequent surveillance testing. All students will be required to self-monitor, and students with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 will be tested at Skidmore Health Services. More details on the testing protocols in the weeks to come as more information becomes available.
Some residential spaces will be reserved for on-campus students who require quarantine and isolation. Students living in off-campus housing who are in isolation or quarantine will have daily contact with Saratoga County Public Health to assess their needs. Skidmore staff will provide assistance to students to help them keep up with their coursework, and faculty will help students continue to meet course requirements while in isolation or quarantine.
Students and employees will be expected to complete a daily symptom screen that will ask them questions regarding COVID-19 symptoms.
“It is abundantly clear that this will be a fall semester unlike any other. There are deep disappointments in this, of course, as we will all miss some of the treasured events and practices to which we have long been accustomed. But the heart and soul of the Skidmore College experience will remain intact, and in many ways, our creative approach to the semester will provide experiences that will be equally, if not more, fulfilling,” Conner said. “This is a special time of challenge, and I am confident that our entire Skidmore community is equal to this challenge. Together we will get to the other side of this challenge, and we will look back with pride on how we conducted ourselves as a dedicated community.”
For details regarding the Skidmore College plan go to: https://www.skidmore.edu/fall-planning/index.php.