Spring 2021 academic continuity plan receives SUNY approval

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

Our spring 2021 academic continuity plan has received formal approval from SUNY. The approved plan has been published on our New Paltz Forward web site and can be reviewed in full at your convenience. In this message, I’ll summarize key elements of our plan, to inform your preparation for next semester.

Our approach in spring 2021 will be broadly similar to that of fall 2020. This includes our intention to offer a mix of in-person, hybrid and fully online courses, in approximately the same ratio as we used in the fall semester (75% remote/25% seated or hybrid). Other aspects of our SUNY-approved plan are unique to the spring 2021 semester.

New policies and information for spring 2021

  • Residence Halls will open on Jan. 17, 2021.
  • The spring semester will begin as scheduled on Jan. 19, 2021. Nearly all course delivery will take place remotely prior to Feb. 1. Courses scheduled as seated or hybrid courses will begin in-person instruction on Feb. 1. SUNY has approved a limited list of New Paltz courses that will begin in-person instruction on Jan. 25, after meeting remotely the week before.
  • All students must complete a seven-day precautionary quarantine prior to any in-person presence on campus.
  • All students, faculty and staff  who will have an on-campus presence will be required to complete daily Health Screenings two weeks prior to their first on-campus presence to report any symptoms, exposure or travel, as designated by SUNY policy. The daily screening has been revised for spring to capture information regarding travel to non-contiguous states and an attestation that such travel results in the required quarantine. Also, at the end of the two-week period, the health screening will require an attestation from students that they have completed the precautionary seven-day quarantine.
  • SUNY is requiring students, faculty and staff to produce a negative COVID-19 test result taken within three days prior to their presence on campus, or to be tested within five days after coming to campus for the first time. This applies to anyone who plans to live, work or take classes on campus, or to use campus facilities such as the gym, library or dining hall.
  • We plan to offer daily (Monday – Friday) on-campus COVID-19 testing from Jan. 19 – Feb. 4 to help students, faculty and staff meet this requirement. Anyone who chooses to submit test results from an off-campus facility must do so within five days of arrival on campus.
  • SUNY has mandated that spring break be canceled and any days off during the semester must fall on midweek days to discourage travel. Therefore, New Paltz will end the semester two days earlier and has scheduled three individual “Mind, Body, Spirit” days that will be distributed as follows:
    • Tuesday, Feb. 23
    • Wednesday, March 24
    • Thursday, April 15
  • A new meal plan has been developed based on student focus group feedback on meal options from fall 2020. The new plan will provide 100 anywhere, anytime meals and $1,100 in dining dollars. The following food service outlets will be open this spring and accept this new meal plan: Peregrine Dining Hall, Nesters, Grill at Student Union, Chick-n-bap, Pomodoro’s, SUB Connection, Hissou Sushi, Atrium Brew, Roost Convenience Store, Starbucks, and Sweets & Treats.
  • We have received the following guidance from SUNY regarding Commencement: “Commencement exercises ordinarily occurring at or near the close of Spring 2021 semester will be considered in accordance with guidance from New York State. Campuses should begin to plan and message virtual commencements and/or safely distanced methods of recognition and degree dissemination for their graduates.” Our Commencement Office is currently considering various options and will communicate them with the campus community once they have been finalized. New Paltz plans will be contingent on state health department guidance at the time of Commencement.

Continuing policies from fall 2020

  • All members of our in-person population (including students and employees, per bargaining unit agreements with SUNY) will be subject to mandatory COVID-19 surveillance testing, with options for getting tested on campus or submitting results from off-campus facilities. About 20% of our in-person population will be tested every week using a mix of PCR and pool testing.
  • All students and employees will be expected to complete the Daily Health Screening at my.newpaltz.edu on any day they intend to be on campus.
  • Masking and social distancing will be required for all in-person environments, including classrooms, study areas, offices, the Athletic & Wellness Center, the Sojourner Truth Library and other spaces.
  • The College will be prepared with a plan to temporarily Pause and Pivot to fully remote instruction if so directed by SUNY or state and local health officials.
  • Chancellor Malatras’ uniform emergency disciplinary standards will be extended through the spring semester so that every effort can be made to ensure compliance with the necessary COVID-19 safety protocols.

As of this writing, the telecommuting policy for employees extends through Jan. 1, 2021. We will share updates from our community about a likely continuation of that policy as that deadline approaches.

Ensuring high-quality remote teaching and learning

A significant portion of our spring 2021 plan outlines how the College will facilitate regular and substantive interaction between students and faculty in remote courses, including the following:

  • As Interim Provost Lyman has announced, faculty are expected to self-review online courses using the Open SUNY Course Quality Review rubric, to ensure adoption of established best practices for remote instruction and delivery of high-quality learning experiences for students. In addition, Interim Provost Lyman released timelines and expectations for meeting SUNY standards for remote instruction.
  • Faculty and students will continue to have access to training and technological tools to support a robust, consistent and engaging remote teaching and learning environment. Many of these can be accessed in the Help Desk’s Knowledge Base.
  • The temporary expansion of the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grade option, allowing students two additional S/U grades per semester to be used after consultation with advisor, will continue in spring 2021.

Additional resources and links

Many more details about academic and campus operations for spring 2021 are described in the full plan and in a What Students Should Know web page designed to help students absorb the information. We encourage you to review and familiarize themselves with those details.

We understand that the planning documents are dense, and we will continue working to make them easier to understand and absorb through consistent messaging, reminders and updates in the Daily Digest newsletter, NPForward texts, the College’s social media accounts and web pages, print posters and fliers, and other institutional channels.

Our New Paltz Forward FAQ page is being updated with new information as well, and will continue to be a resource for students, faculty and staff in the months ahead.

We must also acknowledge that, given the continued uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic, campus planning is subject to substantial change due to new information and/or direction from SUNY and state and local health officials.

I will close this message, as I have been moved to do in many other messages to you all this year, with an expression of my sincerest gratitude at how our community has rallied together and made sacrifices to sustain our educational mission and protect one another. Despite some encouraging recent news, including the arrival of limited quantities of COVID-19 vaccines in New York State, our community’s experience of this pandemic is likely to continue well into 2021. I have full faith in our ability to continue exercising a “We Not Me” mentality and safeguarding the health of those around us in the spring semester.

Until then, I congratulate all students, faculty and staff on a successful fall, and wish you all a peaceful, heathy and revitalizing winter break.

Donald P. Christian