Farmingdale State College has not canceled spring break, but students will have to test negative for COVID-19 before returning to classes. Newsday spoke to Farmingdale students to get their reactions. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Local colleges and universities are well into planning the spring semester, and for some, it’s "so long spring break" — at least for 2021.

Adelphi University, Hofstra University, Long Island University, St. Joseph's College, Molloy College and SUNY Stony Brook have canceled the traditional week off that's typically scheduled for March. Other schools are going ahead with the recess, with at least one — SUNY Farmingdale — planning a COVID-19 testing regimen for students as they return to campus.

Nationally, some of the largest colleges and universities, such as Boston University and Florida State, have canceled the break, too. This past March, spring-breakers were criticized after scores of young people flocked to beaches and resorts, especially in Florida, while coronavirus cases were raging across the country.

Some college administrators want to avoid a repeat.

"I think it's the right thing to do — that's the bottom line," said Herman Berliner, Hofstra University’s provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. "If it wasn't for COVID-19 … we would certainly want to break, but I think they [the students] also understand that we are doing really well in the midst of a pandemic."

Most Long Island schools are offering hybrid schedules, a mix of remote and in-person learning, because of the pandemic. Some schools have a residential population, while others serve mostly commuters. About 2,000 students are living on campus this fall at Hofstra, officials there said.

Hofstra's spring semester will run from Feb. 1 to May 21, with five days sprinkled throughout the calendar for students and staff to have off, Berliner said. He said school officials reached out to student leaders, and decided that — instead of ending or starting the semester early — they would spread the five days out, and use them during the middle of the week, rather than offer three-day weekends.

"The university wants to discourage travel — especially from the quarantine states," Berliner said. There are 41 states and territories on New York State's quarantine list.

Among plans at other schools:

  • Stony Brook said in a statement that the start of the spring semester will be delayed a week, with the term beginning Feb. 1. The university is eliminating spring break to make up for the lost time. The last day of classes is scheduled for May 8.
  • Adelphi University officials sent an email to students and staff saying spring break was canceled at the Garden City school to discourage travel. They are sprinkling in days off throughout the spring calendar.
  • Donald Boomgaarden, president of St. Joseph's College in Patchogue, said the school has modified its spring schedule with classes starting one week earlier, on Jan. 28. The March 15-19 break has been canceled.
  • Long Island University chief administrative officer Joseph L. Schaefer sent a note to the campus community Oct. 27 saying that classes will resume Feb. 1 for the spring semester and "will proceed without holidays or breaks, including Presidents Day and Spring Break." LIU Post is in Brookville.

Farmingdale State College is taking a different approach: It will go ahead with spring break, March 14-20, said Patrick Calabria, vice president for Institutional Advancement and Enrollment Management. The college has capacity for more than 600 students to live on campus, but limited that number to 100. The spring semester begins Jan. 22.

"If we proceed with our spring break as we are planning to do right now, we would have a testing regimen when students return to campus," Calabria said. "They would have to provide a test or we would test them as we are doing now."

Farmingdale State College freshman Ariana Morace, 18, on Oct. 22.

Farmingdale State College freshman Ariana Morace, 18, on Oct. 22. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Farmingdale freshman Ariana Morace, 18, believes that is a good compromise.

"We work really hard during the semester and we deserve that break," said Morace, of Queens. "Last year, when I was a senior in high school, they canceled our spring break and I felt that wasn’t fair because they were giving us a lot of work and we were working extra hard because we had to teach ourselves everything — because online learning is difficult."

Suffolk County Community College, with campuses in Brentwood, Riverhead and Selden, also is keeping spring break. Nassau Community College in Garden City is finalizing its plans and has not yet made an announcement.

New York Institute of Technology's recess is set for March 27-April 4, officials at the school in Old Westbury said.

Teresa A. Miller, officer-in-charge of SUNY Old Westbury, said officials there are considering a weeklong break from classes starting March 27. She anticipates that most of the instruction at the school will continue to be delivered remotely.

"It is not so much we would eliminate spring break," she said, adding that the school is considering offering "co-curricular programming that will help our students to be successful in completing the spring semester." There could be offerings on time management and completing writing projects, as well as academic advisement opportunities, she said.

Farmingdale State College freshman Koffa Akakpo.

Farmingdale State College freshman Koffa Akakpo. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Koffa Akakpo, 18, a freshman at Farmingdale from Queens, said it is unfair for schools to cancel the break. But he's not surprised.

"It's not what I expected," he said of his first year as a college student. "I expected it to be a little bit more lively than what it is right now, but we really can't complain because there is COVID and we have to make do with what we have."

College outbreaks

Some of the recent coronavirus outbreaks involving college students:

  • In New York State, SUNY Oneonta had to shut down in-person instruction in early September because of an uptick in virus cases, and SUNY Cortland and SUNY Oswego had two-week switches to remote classes.
  • A Ball State study found that thousands of college students may have picked up COVID-19 while at popular and densely packed spring break destinations in March, only to return to infect others with the coronavirus, a researcher at the school in Muncie, Indiana, reported.
  • A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a March spring break trip to Mexico for University of Texas students led to 64 positive cases, including 60 among 183 vacation travelers, one among 13 household contacts, and three among 35 community contacts.

SOURCES: Newsday archives, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ball State University, SUNY system, SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Oswego

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