'That time is now': SUNY schools switch to online classes amidst COVID-19 threat

KAYLA BREEN/STAFF PHOTOSUNY Plattsburgh students call parents, check social media and talk with friends about the recent news of college’s closure and move to “distance learning” as televisions around campus air news of the World Health Organization officially declaring the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, a pandemic.

PLATTSBURGH — News of the closure of SUNY campuses sent officials at Plattsburgh State into action Wednesday, doing their best to inform students and staff of the latest developments.

SUNY Plattsburgh residence halls close Saturday at noon for Spring Break, and were scheduled to reopen on March 22 with classes resuming on March 23.

Now, students will move to online classes for the rest of the semester, which ends May 15.

“Moments ago, I received guidance from SUNY concerning actions to reduce COVID-19 exposure,” Dr. Alexander Enyedi, college president, said in a post to the college community.

“I am writing to share these important changes for the spring semester announced today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. We have said developments with COVID-19 across New York and elsewhere may require us to take steps to adapt. That time is now.”

CAMPUS PRECAUTION

The letter stated there continue to be no students or community members found to have contracted COVID-19.

“Please understand the evolving nature of this worldwide public health emergency,” Enyedi stated.

“So, with the overarching goal to support wider mitigation efforts across the state to prevent the spread of the virus, to reduce the density of common gatherings, and to be responsible in our wider communities, we are taking the following steps today: Classes will move to distance learning for the rest of the semester after spring break.”

This measure is happening across the SUNY system, and Enyedi asked students to prepare accordingly.

“Take with you any information or books needed for classes,” he said.

“Tools have been developed so students can complete coursework off-campus. I appreciate the ongoing work of faculty and staff to make this possible through quick-start Moodle sessions, added Zoom licenses and more.”

DEVELOPING DIRECTIVES

Approaches for training and assistance for faculty and students will be discussed more in depth over the coming days.

A more fully developed set of FAQs and other directions will be shared with faculty and students.

During distance learning, the college will remain open as will on-campus housing.

“We understand leaving campus for break or the semester would be a hardship to some students,” Enyedi stated.

“While there will be no on-campus classes for students to attend, Campus Housing and Community Living will remain open and students are allowed to stay on campus for the semester. This is the same as students who may live off-campus year round. More details will be shared soon.”

His letter also stated that details on matters such as possible changes to travel restrictions, large-scale gatherings and more will be developed soon and shared with the college community.

Further guidance for employees will also be outlined soon, too.

“Our top priorities remain doing no harm, being flexible and serving all students and the campus community well,” Enyedi said.

“It is also critical to be aware of news reports that demonstrate unjust targeting of the global Asian community is on the rise. This rhetoric is wrong and your kindness and special care toward these members of our campus community is important now.”

TRIAL BY FIRE

The 11th Plattsburgh State president was appointed to his post in January after a year-long search.

“Though I have only been a part of SUNY Plattsburgh for the past couple months, it is evident as I have met with so many of you what an amazing place this is,” Enyedi said.

“I share with you any sadness or grief you have in this level of disruption. It is unprecedented, as is the spirit of cooperation among so many. Campus leaders have come together collectively and in smaller clusters to prepare accordingly since January and it is critical to what we are doing now.

Continue to care for each other and demonstrate what it means to be a Cardinal. We have much to be proud of.”

SUNY STUDENT ASSEMBLY RESPONSE

The SUNY Student Assembly responded to the governor's game-changing announcement.

“Guaranteeing the health and safety of the State University of New York’s students, faculty and staff is rightfully Governor Cuomo’s priority," a press release stated.

"We appreciate the Governor’s announcement that SUNY campuses will move to a distance learning model for the remainder of the spring semester.

As of midday Wednesday, there were 212 cases of corona virus confirmed in New York State.

None in Clinton County, according to the County Health Department. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, a pandemic on Wednesday, also.

Enyedi directed the college community to go the college's website for updates:

https://www.plattsburgh.edu/plattslife/health-safety/health-counseling-center/coronavirus.html.

And for questions, email emergencymanagement@plattsburgh.edu.

EMAIL ROBIN CAUDELL:

rcaudell@pressrepublican.com

Twitter:@RobinCaudell

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