GREENPORT — Columbia-Greene Community College has announced it will delay the start of its spring semester by one week.

The college announced Tuesday it will begin the spring semester Jan. 25, a one-week delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Columbia-Greene Community College is exercising extreme caution with respect to the virus,” said college president Carlee Drummer. “The recommendation from SUNY is that classes begin a little bit later than normal in order for the Christmas holiday and New Year’s holidays to have passed and enabled students to get tested for the virus before they return to campus.”

Most SUNY colleges are starting Feb. 1. Columbia-Greene Community College is starting Jan. 25 instead of the original Jan. 19 start date with limited face-to-face classes and the majority of classes being taught remotely, Drummer said. This will allow the college to end its spring semester and keep its normal schedule for the summer term, which begins May 17, she added.

“We are doing everything we can to reach out to students to make sure everything is going smoothly,” Drummer said. “We are having our advisors and our faculty team check in with their students frequently just to ask questions, just to make sure everything is fine, and if there’s feedback that we should have, they’ll tell us. They aren’t shy and that’s really helpful to have that open communication.”

Students taking classes that require hands-on learning, such as clinical nursing, automotive and art courses, will attend those classes on campus, Drummer said.

The college is requiring that all students taking in-person classes are tested for COVID-19 before they return to campus. The college will also test faculty, staff and students throughout the semester.

The college has also canceled its spring break for the upcoming semester and will not have an in-person commencement this spring, Drummer said.

The college will also not host any in-person events or meetings, including winter athletics, until further notice, according to a statement from the college.

Four students tested positive for the virus in the fall semester. Drummer said three of those students attended fully remotely, and one had been taking an in-person class.

The State University of New York sent a survey to students asking about their learning experiences, Drummer said. Columbia-Greene Community College students responded to the survey that while they preferred to have in-person classes, they felt they received the same level of education in virtual classes as they did in the classroom prior to the pandemic.

“That really is a compliment to our faculty at Columbia-Greene,” Drummer said. “The faculty worked diligently from the time we went remote in mid-March we completed our spring [2020] semester,” Drummer said. “The faculty worked all summer to make sure that they had mastered the virtual learning platforms and they knew exactly how they were going to approach the classes in this new environment.”

The college’s enrollment for the fall 2020 semester was about the same as it was for the fall semester of 2019, and the enrollment level for the spring 2021 semester looks like it will be about the same as it had been for  spring 2020, she said.

There have been about 648,700 COVID tests administered across the 64 state university campuses, with 3,569 positive cases as of Dec. 31, according to SUNY’s online COVID tracker.

“With COVID-19 surging nationwide, and with increased cases in New York, SUNY has devised a comprehensive plan to keep this virus at bay throughout the flu season and through the spring semester,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said in a November statement. “We’ve demonstrated this past fall that by implementing an aggressive strategy to manage COVID, students can safely return to campus. These additional efforts — testing all students upon return, ongoing testing throughout the semester, pushing out the start of the spring semester, and mandatory masks at all times, coupled with uniform enforcement and compliance — illustrates that SUNY is setting a nationwide standard for controlling COVID-19 in the weeks and months to come.”

COVID guidelines call for SUNY colleges and universities to require face masks at all times, including while social distancing, require students be tested prior to returning to campus, delay the start of the spring 2021 semester and cancel spring break.

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