Suffolk County Community College started its fall semester on Wednesday, both in the classroom for in-person instruction and online. Classes across its three campuses and two downtown centers include measures to protect students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, including smaller group sizes to reduce density in accordance with state COVID-19 requirements.
A total of 17,869 students are enrolled across the college, down a bit since last year, but enrollment is continuing, according to Drew Biondo, a spokesman. The college also distributed more than $3.5 million in student grants under the CARES Act for students who suffered financial loss due to the coronavirus, making it possible for many to return to college this fall.
College officials have been working hard to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which is a concern at college campuses nationwide. Interim College President Louis Petrizzo said a statement Wednesday that the college empaneled a Safe Start Task Force to prepare a comprehensive, State University of New York-approved reopening plan. The college created a Return to Campus Guidelines website to outline policies and procedures for this fall’s return.
The guidelines include a mandate that all students complete an online daily health screening questionnaire before arriving at campus. An email will then be sent to the student permitting them on campus, an email which must be shown to the Public Safety Officer on duty upon arrival. “Any student whose responses indicate a risk of COVID-19 exposure will receive an email advising them that they do not have clearance to come on campus that day and should contact a campus dean,” a statement from the college said.
Students are also required to adhere to social distancing requirements, wear a face covering or a mask, monitor their own health, and acknowledge that they will abide by the college’s guidelines each time they are on campus. If they do not, they face a suspension.
Campus libraries will be open and are accessible by appointment only during which students can reserve two-hour blocks of time on an online form. Remote library research assistance is also available by phone, email and virtual chat.
“We recognize that high-quality child care is important for students who are attending classes,” said Petrizzo, adding that the college’s childcare centers will reopen and be available with new drop-off and pickup procedures in place for health and safety.”
In anticipation of more remote learning, the college is distributing more than 540 laptops, 300 Chromebooks and 75 Wi-Fi hotspots for student use. Outdoor wireless access was also expanded to parking lots on all campuses. Faculty underwent additional training “to sharpen their skills for remote instruction,” the statement said.