ITHACA, N.Y. –– As Ithaca College prepares to welcome its first students back to campus at the end of the month, the President’s office has now released the official re-opening plan outlining protocols the school will follow in trying to do so safely.

The plan also comes with the creation of a new position –– Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness. Christina Moylan, previously an associate dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, will be heading up the campus response to COVID-19.

The plan, which was released Tuesday, expands on a preliminary notice published at the end of June announcing a fall semester combining in-person and remote work starting Oct. 5. The expanded plan goes into specifics of students returning to South Hill in waves, and the testing procedures to accompany the influx of persons to campus.

“This document reflects the diligent, hard work of so many members of this community and offers a detailed, specific outline for how this institution plans to navigate the coming academic year — from facilities preparation, to repopulating our campus, to concrete steps we will take to prioritize the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff,” IC President Shirley Collado said in her announcement.

The first round of new arrivals is set to begin Aug. 28 with graduate physical therapy students participating in a “PT Boot Camp” and all essential student employees such as residence advisors (RAs), dining staff and information technology workers. From there, the college plans to bring students back in waves throughout Sept.

Unlike Cornell University’s reopening plans, students from states on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s list of restricted states are being barred from returning to campus. For those students coming to Ithaca from non-restricted states the re-entry procedure is as follows:

  • Students will be tested for COVID-19 upon check-in for their on-campus housing in the Athletics and Events Center
  • Off-campus students will be required to obtain testing on a day that the walk-through testing is available
  • Students are required to quarantine, alone, while awaiting test results
  • Residential students will be provided with their first three meals at check-in to take to their quarantine location

Notably, as part of the new plan students will not be allowed to quarantine with a roommate while awaiting test results, and the college has promised that quarantine space will be available to those who need it.

“Roommates may not quarantine in the same residential room pending testing results. We are strongly recommending that roommates coordinate and plan to arrive on campus on different days to the extent possible. If a roommate has already arrived on campus, the college will secure hotel rooms,” the plan states. 

IC has set aside 138 quarantine single-bed rooms with private bathrooms in their Emerson residence hall, and area hotel rooms have recently been freed up when Cornell announced they would be requiring their students to acquire their own quarantine accommodations

Also as part of the initiation of the re-opening plan, testing for employees with an on-campus presence this fall will be tested starting this week. Their tests will be conducted Aug. 14, 18 and 19.

Beyond initial testing, students and staff will be expected to participate in virtual daily screenings to try and catch COVID cases early.

“Campus members will receive an email reminder each morning prompting them to complete the electronic screening. A paper-based screening will also be available to individuals without access to email. The screening will ask questions regarding exposure to COVID-19-positive individuals and whether they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms themselves,” the plan states. “Supervisors and department offices will be notified of individuals who demonstrate a pattern of not completing the daily screening for additional follow-up.”

IC says that “surveillance testing” will occur throughout the semester, but the details on how, or perhaps more importantly –– how frequently –– are scant. 

“The exact frequency will be determined in coordination with Cayuga Health System as their staff will be supporting the testing process, unless another monitoring mechanism is identified,” IC’s plan states. 

All testing done through Ithaca College will be paid for by the school.

To limit spread within college facilities, IC is instituting rigorous cleaning procedures, and HVAC ventilation systems to meet New York State health requirements. The reopening document additionally lays out plans for increased social distance signage, a reconfiguration of academic building hallway traffic and conversions of classroom and dining spaces in order to promote physical distance.

Student behavior and enforcement of proper health precautions have been a major concern for many Ithacans off the hills, and to ensure adherence to new guidelines IC has followed in Cornell’s footsteps with a behavioral contract as well as restrictions on-campus resources for students who do not comply.

Residential students will not be able to obtain their student identification card or access their room if they do not comply with testing requirements upon arrival to campus. Off-campus students who do not comply with initial or ongoing testing requirements will have certain institutional privileges suspended (ability to add/drop courses, library usage, dining usage, access to card swipe buildings, classrooms, or labs) and be subject to campus judicial action and/or removal from campus.

As stated back in June, IC campus plans to be fully operational with in-person instruction by Monday, Oct. 5, and in-person instruction will continue for students through Tuesday, Nov. 24. Instruction and coursework will be remote from Monday, Nov. 30, through the last day of classes, Monday, Dec. 14. Finals will be held remotely beginning Tuesday, Dec. 15.

In addition to the divided semester, IC is also choosing to offer courses in four instructional models in the fall semester: 100% On-Campus Required, Online Asynchronous where the class meets online with no specific days or times specified beginning Sept. 8, Online Synchronous where the class meets online on particular days and times beginning Sept. 8 and Hybrid Online with a face-to-face option where the class has in-person elements but is accessible to students who are attending fully online.

However there is a slight caveat for students choosing to not return to campus and complete their instruction online –– it may be possible that some coursework can only be completed in a face-to-face environment due to accreditation or other requirements, “in which case a student’s progress toward a degree may be delayed until such coursework can be completed face-to-face,” IC’s plan states.

IC’s official re-opening plan ends with documentation outlining what would happen if the campus was forced to close. The plan states that if mid-semester operations were forced to go remote, “the college will give students seven days, if possible, to vacate the residence halls. Students will be asked to pack and take all of their belongings with them.”

The entire campus re-opening plan can be found online here.

“Our beloved college is not unfamiliar with challenging moments — and our community is not unfamiliar with moments that ask us to reimagine and rebuild a resilient future together,” President Collado said in the closing of her message. “The behavior and humanity of every member of this community will determine our ability to move forward together to the other side of this challenging crisis.”

Correction: The original version of this article stated that Cornell University would be barring students from returning to campus from states on Gov. Cuomo’s travel advisory list. Cornell students are being allowed to return, so long as they quarantine in New York for 14 days prior to arrival on campus. 

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com