ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca College administrators held a town hall Thursday night to discuss the latest updates on its reopening plan and any potential tweaks the school is looking at for the spring semester and bringing students back to campus amid the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the rising numbers around Tompkins County and the country, school officials did not signal any intention to change their previously stated plans to bring students back to live on-campus in the spring.

The event was held via Zoom and featured speakers Bonnie Prunty, dean of students, Director of Public Safety and Emergency Management Bill Kerry, Public Health Emergency Preparedness Director Christina Moylan, Residence Director Eileen Roth, VP of Affairs and Campus Life Rosanna Ferro and Medical Services Director Dr. Ellyn Sellers-Selin.

More information can be found on the college’s spring return webpage. There were not any questions answered about the school’s staffing situation, which has led to a growing number of layoffs.

Students will be strongly encouraged to remain in Tompkins County throughout the spring semester, officials said, and the school is emphasizing that goal in a number of ways. First, there will be no spring break, as previously announced; IC will instead be installing five scheduled mini-breaks, or single day holidays, throughout the semester. Further, as a means of pushing students to remain local, officials said they wouldn’t be able to provide on-campus quarantine housing for students who need it to return at some point during the spring semester in the hopes that will discourage non-essential travel. Prunty especially highlighted that this was a 

In-person classes will begin on Feb. 8, after two weeks of fully-remote learning. The move-in period will begin on Jan. 7, with athletes returning first, and there will be a variety of course modalities offered, including fully in-person, hybrid and fully remote. Ithaca College had initially planned to have students on campus for the fall semester but reversed course over the summer.

IC will be able to house 100 students per week for the purpose of on-campus quarantine, which students can be released from after two negative COVID-19 tests. With four weeks between the start of classes and the first move-in date, the school will be able to guarantee on-campus quarantine for 400 students, though it’s unclear what accommodations will be made for other students. Prunty did say that if students are sharing a room, both roommates would have to test negative before move-in: the first to arrive would be allowed to move their belongings into the room, but the second would have to go to a hotel to quarantine until a negative test was returned.

There is concern, Moylan said, about students returning to homes in other places in New York that are experiencing spikes, which is another factor in the school’s urging for students to remain local during the spring. Moylan particularly mentioned that students shouldn’t put employees of the school, who don’t have the luxury of staying on campus, at risk. 

“We have a large number of employees that are not just in Ithaca but also in our contiguous counties,” Moylan said. “Unlike students, they are traveling back and forth every day. (…) We’re focused on students, but we’re equally focused on the health and wellness of our employees as well.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com