‘I want a degree’: At LI colleges, hope grows as spring semester approaches

When Farmingdale State College senior Jasmine Brown reminisces about her freshman year, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began, she shines like Technicolor — before the screen went gray.

“Ah, the first year was amazing – it was almost like you see in the movies, where you meet people and hang out with them all the time, making new memories and new friendships,” Brown said. , 21 years old, student in mechanical engineering and technology. of Freeport and a residence director who has helped young students through the toughest times of the pandemic.

What there is to know

After largely remote intersessions this month, several Long Island colleges and universities have chosen to delay spring semester classes or start with a week or less of distance learning.

Most schools offer distance and blended courses (a mix of in-person and remote options) for classes and activities, but the majority of classes will be in-person.

Most higher education institutions have mandated vaccinations and boosters, indoor masks, and ongoing or intensified routine and surveillance COVID-19 testing for students and employees.

Last fall, she says, the campus opened up a bit, the dorms were fuller, and the ghostly isolation of the previous year had been lifted.

“Compared to my freshman year as 100 percent of the college experience, I’d say fall 2021 was about 75 percent,” she said. “I’m still very nervous because we haven’t heard anything about how the spring semester will go, but fingers crossed. … I want a degree.”

Long Island college and university administrators are also keeping their fingers crossed and courageously planning for a face-to-face spring semester, with cautious optimism that the current national wave of COVID-19 infections by the highly contagious from the omicron will soon reflux.

Schools have said they will maintain — or strengthen — the protocols that kept infection rates relatively low on campuses last fall. Most now require vaccinations with a booster and will maintain or increase the pace of COVID-19 testing.

But spring break and sporting events are still on the schedule, clubs will meet both in person and virtually, and spectators, initially banned from some indoor gymnasiums on campus, may soon be allowed to return.

Most campuses will halve the time spent in COVID-19 isolation or quarantine to five days, in accordance with new federal and state guidelines.

“We’ve had people ask if we plan to move remotely. We’re not,” Farmingdale State Chairman John S. Nader said. “My feeling is that students would very much like to be in person whenever possible. … We hope the omicron will die out soon.”

The college has had a contingency plan in place since the fall, to divide classes into alternating sections of in-person and distance learning to keep class sizes low.

Adelphi University in Garden City announced on Thursday that it will reopen in person on January 25, with an option for faculty to switch to short-term distance learning until at least February 7 and housing for students. students in isolation or quarantine.

The school will also maintain the 10-day isolation and quarantine period rather than complying with the new guidelines, and increase routine testing, including 10% of the student body each week in a monitoring program that had been eased in the fall. Indoor capacity limits are back and many employees will go remote.

“We’re doing everything we can to get back to our traditional field experience, but let’s do it in a way that provides the safest experience possible,” said Dr. KC Rondello, clinical associate professor at the College of Nursing. and public health. in Adelphi. “Omicron was a challenge for that.”

But, he said, the situation could change quickly over the coming weeks, and he expressed optimism that the spike in cases could drop quickly, as is the case in countries like the United States. South Africa and Great Britain.

Decisions on how to respond to the latest wave are being made on a campus-by-campus basis, with some regularly relying on a significant number of online courses.

Take a “wait and see” approach

At Molloy College in Rockville Center, where undergraduates are already taking 23% of classes online and 7% hybrid – both in-person and remotely – classes have been delayed a few days, and it will be “wait -and-see” for the foreseeable future, said Dr. Janine Biscari, Vice President of Student Affairs. But the plan is to quickly return to a more open campus.

“The concept of COVID fatigue, Zoom fatigue is very real,” she said. “The plan is to return to full throttle in in-person classes and events in the spring.”

Five Towns College in Dix Hills has postponed its semester start from Jan. 10 to Jan. 31, when it expects everyone on campus to be both vaccinated and boosted.

Hofstra University in Hempstead is planning an in-person semester when most classes start Jan. 31, with a mask and booster mandate, monitoring testing and “constant guidance from our partners at Northwell Health,” Melissa said. Connolly, Vice President of University Relations.

Stony Brook University will open without additional remote instruction or reduced activities beyond certain food safety measures and mask and reminder mandates. Deans at the Renaissance School of Medicine have rejected student requests for distance learning as positive cases surge among Stony Brook Medicine employees.

At the Webb Institute at Glen Cove, a specialist school offering a dual degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, students must work together. With a staff of just 105, the school was free of COVID-19 until three cases emerged after Thanksgiving in November.

There is no vaccination mandate, but 100% of students are vaccinated, said school president R. Keith Michel. “We have a strong honor code here, and students generally respect it,” he said. “We’re asking them to limit off-campus travel, and as a result, we’ve been in person this entire time.”

He added: “The omicron strain has changed the equation. We recognize that students will be infected”, particularly once they are on placements anywhere in the world. Before returning on February 28, they will be tested, isolated if positive, and attend classes virtually for the first week. While masks and social distancing will be in place in week two, after that “we hope to be able to allow them to remove their masks in the classroom.”

At St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, where students go to class, they didn’t call to worry about their return, executive dean Eileen Jahn said. The first days will be remote and will resume in person on January 24.

“I have a feeling that we will enter the spring semester more cautiously than we will leave it,” she said, noting that spectators at sporting events are temporarily prohibited, but that she hoped conditions would improve. “I don’t get a lot of letters from people who are nervous about coming back. I think people are building up a tolerance – they know they were safe in the fall.”

More classes will be taught in person this spring at New York Institute of Technology at Old Westbury, up to 75% to 80%, up from 62% remote or hybrid last fall, said Joseph Posillico, vice president of the registration management.

“But we are ready to change at any time if we have to. We would just switch from in-person to hybrid or distance learning if infection rates increase.”

New York Technical Assistant Provost Tiffani Blake said some safety measures put in place during the pandemic would continue, such as options for virtual club meetings that made them more accessible and widely attended.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old John Lopes of Old Westbury transferred to second grade last fall at LIU Post in Brookville after a year at home when his first school in Pennsylvania went far away. He was happy with the experience and will be moving into a dorm for the spring semester, when he will be part of the school’s crew and newspaper crew.

He caught COVID-19 for the second time despite being vaccinated, he said, but he’s not worried about it now.

“People are going to have it or they won’t have it, but the school will stay open,” Lopes said.