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July 2, 2020

Fall Reopening: Update From President Miguel Martinez-Saenz

With summer in full swing, I hope you are all able to take time to relax and recharge after what has been a spring with unprecedented challenges.

I remain so proud of our St. Francis College family, for the strength, resiliency and determination you have all shown these past months. I see every day how our community's shared Franciscan values help us persevere and uplift one another as we navigate a rapidly changing world together.

Our Committee for Reopening continues to plan thoughtfully for this fall, and I want to bring you up to speed on where things stand today.

As I've shared previously, the College is taking many measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and implement health and safety protocols to allow for a phased reopening on campus for the fall 2020 semester.

Our fall planning is built upon two core principles: (1) optimizing our community's well-being by mitigating COVID-19 transmission; and (2) delivering a stellar Franciscan education that allows our students to pursue their dreams and achieve their full potential.

On June 20, 2020, New York State released requirements that higher education institutions must follow to reopen their campuses in the fall. In addition to those requirements, the restart of the College also conforms with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health, government and education authorities, as I outlined in my letter to you last month.

While we are still planning, here are key updates concerning fall:

  • Some in-person classes and labs will resume on campus. As Jennifer Lancaster, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean, shared last month, our freshmen will each be in a Terrier Community – a cohort of about 20 students sharing similar academic interests – that can be on campus one assigned day each week for in-person classes. Students from other graduation years will have opportunities for on-campus classes or other activities on specified days, too, and students in nursing and science programs can expect opportunities for in-person hands-on instruction and labs. Academic advisors will assist students with their schedules and answer any individual questions or concerns.
  • Some courses will be fully online. All students can expect that at least some of their fall courses will be instructed fully online. St. Francis College provides faculty rigorous training on advanced technology and teaching techniques so they can deliver state-of-the-art online instruction. Students taking online courses will all have opportunities for real-time online interaction with their professors and instructors – including live lectures, discussion groups or office hours -- in addition to the flexibility of completing assigned coursework on their own schedules.
  • Campus offices will re-open with adjustments in place. We hope to have some non-essential staff and faculty be able to work from their campus offices again before the start of the academic year. More information on that will be forthcoming. In the meantime, if an employee (faculty or staff) must visit campus, he or she must receive approval from his or her divisional Vice President or equivalent 24 hours in advance. Visits must be coordinated by the divisional VP with the Facilities and Security team, be brief and for essential work only. We recognize that certain employees may be more vulnerable, as defined by the CDC, for increased risk of severe illness associated with COVID-19. Employees with medical vulnerabilities or other circumstances that may pose special challenges to on-campus work should speak with their healthcare provider and contact the Office of Human Resources regarding potential accommodations, if necessary. Reasonable accommodations will be made on a case-by-case, individual basis.
  • Fall athletics season is not yet determined. We continue to work closely with NCAA, NEC and other governing bodies as they put in place guidance that will inform how St. Francis College and its competitor institutions run their fall athletics seasons.
  • Campus facilities will be subject to new rules and some physical modifications. In order to ensure proper health and safety protocols are met, as you return to campus, you'll see changes to our buildings, such as distance markers, directional signage and plexiglass barriers in certain areas. To allow for social distancing, we will limit the numbers of people on campus at one time and implement new maximum-occupancy rules for campus spaces, including auditoriums, labs and classrooms. Hand-washing, sanitizer stations and disinfection are essential components of our fall return to campus and all protocols will be based on the New York State Department of Health and the CDC guidelines. We will also mandate that all members of the community wear face masks or coverings at all times while in public spaces and unable to maintain social distancing and implement personal protective measures. It is on all of us to stop the spread of the virus and adhere to appropriate health and safety measures. We will share more details about other measures soon.

Part of what makes St. Francis so special is a commitment to shared purpose. We are together in our goal to thrive despite challenges none of us anticipated this year. Our faculty and staff have proven to be exceptionally creative and innovative in forging unique solutions as we navigate this changing world. And our students' flexibility and dedication has not wavered. I am grateful to you all.

I wish you all a very happy Independence Day weekend and you will hear more from us soon.

In Peace & Friendship,
Miguel Martinez-Saenz

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