The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York continues to climb, and on Thursday morning, the first confirmed cases were reported in Albany County. Presently, mass gatherings are being restricted - on college campuses, at sporting events, etc. – to mitigate the spread of the disease. As long as the threat persists, we believe the risk is simply too high for students to return to campus. Therefore, classes will be moved to a remote instruction format from Monday, March 23 through Wednesday, April 8.
We hope the disease is contained by the end of the Easter holiday and students will be able to finish the academic year together, with classes resuming Tuesday, April 14. In the meantime, we must embrace a distance learning model for the protection and well-being of our students and community. As indicated in the March 11 letter emailed to the community, faculty will spend the next week adapting all courses to be taught remotely. Professors will contact their students in the coming week concerning next steps.
Faculty will make every effort necessary to ensure students can complete their coursework on time to earn their credits as scheduled. The delivery method will be different, but the classes will satisfy course objectives and conform to New York State Education Department standards. We are also developing training sessions for students unfamiliar with online learning. Some tutoring and counseling services will be available virtually, lab components will be taught via alternative techniques, and updated mechanisms for advising and registration are being finalized.
In light of the extended and unexpected period away from campus, some students may have academic materials or other essential belongings on campus they would like to retrieve. Accommodations will be made so that each student and/or parent can pick up those items from residence halls or townhouses. To make arrangements, students must sign up using their housing portal via Banner Self Service to select a day and time from one of eight designated windows over the next four days. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity otherwise you will not be permitted to return to campus for any reason until Monday, April 13.
The MAAC announced on March 12 that the spring sports season would be cancelled, so student athletes presently on campus will be returning home. All students studying abroad in European Union and the United Kingdom are making arrangements to return home as soon as possible. Other students who did not travel for spring break – such as international students or student teachers – will work with the College on a case-by-case basis to determine the most prudent course of action. College travel restrictions and social distancing protocols will remain in effect through April 13. However, the campus remains open and all faculty, staff, and administrators will continue to report as assigned. Beginning March 13, all buildings will be locked and the gates will be closed at 6:00 p.m. nightly.
The College will, of course, be considering the financial impact these unusual circumstances will create for students. We will make adjustments to billing when the extent of changes to our operations are fully known. As a reminder, much more information exists on our dedicated coronavirus page on the College’s website.
As we all know, this situation is without precedent and the circumstances are rapidly changing. We understand the disappointment students, faculty, and staff feel when favorite events are cancelled, but the well-being of our students and community will always be our first concern. Our actions must protect not only members of our immediate campus community, but also relatives, friends, and acquaintances with whom we come in contact to prevent dire consequences for vulnerable populations. If a change in course is warranted, we will make those determinations as swiftly as possible and provide as much advance notice as we can.
Our Franciscan tradition of community is one of Siena’s greatest strengths. Let us continue to pray and support one another as we journey together through these challenging times. May our gracious God be with all of us impacted by this virus, and may God be with the scientists and researchers who seek to heal and help those affected.