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NCCC plans mostly online classes in fall

Joe Keegan, president of North Country Community College, addresses graduates, family and friends as they comment in a chat window May 16 during the school's online commencement ceremony. (Screenshot provided by NCCC)

SARANAC LAKE — North Country Community College classes will be mostly online this fall semester.

There will be a few exceptions for classes where “learning outcomes are best supported by face-to-face instruction,” the college announced in a press release Friday. These include select nursing, radiologic technology and massage therapy classes, which will be permitted to run via an in-person format.

The residence halls located on the Saranac Lake campus, operated by the NCCC Association, will be shuttered for the fall semester. College officials say students could return to the residence halls in the spring, depending on the status of the pandemic.

All athletic competition will be suspended for the fall semester. Decisions about winter and spring athletic programs will be made in the future based on the latest health and safety guidelines available.

Dining services will not be offered on any of the college’s campuses this fall.

Student Life activities will mostly be delivered remotely.

The college said the State University of New York has certified this Campus Restart Plan for NCCC’s fall semester. College spokesperson Chris Knight had previously said the college’s COVID-19 Task Force had developed several possible plans and submitted them to SUNY for its decision.

NCCC officials said this plan was based on the college’s experience in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring semester and its experience with delivering online education, which stretches back nearly 20 years. The plan was developed using guidance and resources provided by the governor’s office, the state Department of Health, SUNY and public health partners.

“This has been long-awaited by us all, and I appreciate so much the help, patience and good will from our campus community in formulating the plan,” college President Joe Keegan said in the press release.

“We believe a mostly online delivery offers the best opportunity to put the safety of our students and employees first, protect our core areas of academic excellence, and sustain programming through academic and operational synergies,” Keegan added. “Doing so then allows for us to fulfill our mission, and continue to serve our regional workforce needs.”

The college is scheduled to begin its fall semester on Aug. 31 at its three campuses in Saranac Lake, Malone and Ticonderoga — although not necessarily at those campuses physically.

“We have no doubt that they will find a top-notch learning experience and supportive community here at North Country even though they may not be physically with us,” Keegan said.

Staff will begin to return to campus mid-to-late July. All offices will follow physical and social distancing guidelines, with barriers in place in high face-to-face traffic areas and social-distance markings in place where necessary.

Those faculty members who will conduct face-to-face instruction this fall will return in late August. The faculty have individual offices, and their planned work spaces support social-distancing guidelines.

Occupancy limits have been established for labs and clinical practice for nursing, radiologic technology and massage therapy based on social distancing guidelines and the size of rooms where these classes would take place.

When on campus, all students, faculty and staff will be required to wear face masks whenever physical distancing protocols cannot be followed and in cases where they are sharing space with others (e.g. classrooms, labs, office space).

The college has secured and will distribute appropriate and reusable cloth face masks for all employees and students. Disposable masks will also be made available.

Before returning to campus, students and employees will be asked to participate in an isolation period to ensure they are asymptomatic and safe to return. Employees will be required to complete a daily screening through the SUNY System’s Back-to-Work Screening Tool. Students will be periodically screened for COVID-19 symptoms and encouraged to participate in routine passive screening during the school day to self-assess for a fever and/or newly present symptoms indicative of COVID-19.

Hand-washing hygiene will be emphasized and reinforced regularly with employees and students as will personal hygiene practices in share spaces.

Regular and frequent cleaning of shared classrooms, labs, bathrooms, hallways and offices will occur daily.

If there is a resurgence of the virus, the college has developed a plan to ramp down operations, as it did in the spring 2020 semester.

The college’s full Campus Restart Plan, including a “Frequently Asked Questions” section, can be viewed at www.nccc.edu/fall-2020.

This plan may be subject to further review and modification as new guidance is provided to the college by the governor’s office, the Department of Health and/or other appropriate state agencies.

“The college extends our thanks to all who helped with the creation of this plan and, as importantly, all those who will assist us in executing it successfully,” Keegan said.