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SUNY's COVID-19 changes for next semester include elimination of spring break

Spring break for 2021 at Stony Brook University

Spring break for 2021 at Stony Brook University and all other SUNY schools has been canceled as part of a plan announced Monday by the 64-campus system to help protect students from the coronavirus. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Spring break 2021 at Stony Brook University and all SUNY campuses is the latest casualty of the coronavirus. A plan announced Monday pushes the system's in-person start date for the spring semester to Feb. 1, requires mandatory testing for returning students and cancels the annual college respite.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced the changes Monday as part of "a sweeping, systemwide plan that will allow campuses to safely return to in-person instruction for the spring semester."

The new protocols were developed "in consultation with public health experts within the university system, as well as campus, faculty, student and union leadership," and includes "proven strategies already being employed" throughout the SUNY system, Malatras said in a statement.

The plan is subject to state or federal mandates and guidance.

About 140,000 students attend SUNY schools. Previously the system announced required testing for all before their departures from campus for Thanksgiving break. SUNY's Farmingdale State College will test the roughly 450 students currently taking in-person classes before they leave for Thanksgiving and after their return Nov. 30, college officials said. About 10,000 students are enrolled at the college.

Most SUNY students will complete the remainder of their fall classwork remotely, officials said, with only students facing "special circumstances" or "unique challenges" allowed to remain on campus for the rest of the semester. Those students will be "routinely tested" for COVID-19, SUNY officials said. Mental health as well as wellness and meal services are being provided for students in those special circumstances, officials said.

Separately, Syracuse University officials said Monday that all in-person instruction and other student activities at the private upstate school have been canceled due to a surge in coronavirus cases. Starting Nov. 16, all classes will be taught online through the end of the semester, Syracuse officials said in a letter to students, according to the university's news website.

SUNY's coronavirus plan for the spring also includes a precautionary seven-day quarantine for students before their return, and mandatory mask-wearing "at all times," even with social distancing guidelines and protocols in place.

The 64-campus system has a "What Students Should Know" guideline package available on its website for students and their families to help prepare for the spring semester changes. That information includes how many courses will be online, hybrid or in-person, SUNY said.

A copy of the new SUNY guidelines can be found at www.suny.edu/media/suny/content-assets/documents/healthaffairs/Spring-2021-Reopening-Guidance-Final.pdf.

"This aggressive strategy gives us the best chance to return our students once again to classrooms in early 2021," Malatras said. "But as we know, this is a fluid situation so we will continue to adapt and be flexible as issues emerge."

Hofstra University in Uniondale and Molloy College in Rockville Centre have also canceled spring break, according to spokesmen for both the schools.

SUNY Old Westbury is considering whether to seek an exemption from the system's spring break rule "to schedule a week of enrichment activities like tutoring, advisement and career planning services," said spokesman Michael Kinane in an email Monday.

Adelphi University in Garden City is swapping out the traditional spring vacation period with five scattered days with no classes. The breaks, on March 10, April 1 and 16, and May 3 and 11, will allow students and faculty "to refresh and recharge, as well as catch up on academic projects," according to Adelphi's website.

At New York Institute of Technology's New York campuses, the schedule shifts spring break from March 20-28 to March 27-April 4. All spring semester classes will be remote from Jan. 25 to March 1, except for the medical school and some health professions programs which operate on a normal schedule.

With Antonio Planas

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