Coronavirus Update: June 2June 2, 2020
We continue to endure one of the most tumultuous years in the 70-year history of our beloved Orange County Community College. We successfully transitioned our Spring and Summer classes and morphed our wide-ranging support services to online functionality all while working remotely ourselves. We did these things in response to a worldwide public health pandemic. As I noted separately yesterday, we now find ourselves, most of us unexpectedly, consumed by a simultaneous and mindboggling national struggle. And while our local concerns may pale, the anxieties are very real: we daily fret about reductions in state funding support and how many students will join us in the fall.
In my most recent “From the Desk Of …” (dated May 19), I expressed my hopes of announcing more details about SUNY Orange’s Fall semester format in early June. But, if we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s how rapidly things change. Since I last wrote to you less than two weeks ago, both SUNY and the Governor’s office began to more actively shape the process on how higher education institutions statewide will announce plans for the Fall.
At present, our COVID-19 Response Team (comprised of our Emergency Management Team and selected others, as noted below) is preparing, at the request of SUNY Chancellor Johnson, a 10-page report outlining our high-level plans for the Fall. That document is due in Albany on June 6, with expected review by SUNY staff shortly thereafter. The COVID-19 Response Team will then digest SUNY’s reactions to our high- level plans as we diligently flesh out the many finer details. Governor Cuomo has said he will announce higher education “reopening” guidance in July as his team approves the detailed plans, ours included, that have been submitted. It is my understanding that his guidance will pertain to all higher education institutions in New York, both public and private.
The broad headings that our plan must address include: Restarting On-Campus Operations, Tracing and Monitoring After Reopening, Communication and Outreach Plan, Resources Required to Reopen, and Time Required to Restart On Campus Operations. These topics will be supported by more detailed planning within each area.
I am pleased to share that our COVID-19 Response Team had already identified many of these same topics as essential to our expansive planning matrix, so developing our report is a matter of codifying those ideas and adding other items as needed. Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Erika Hackman, her team of AVPs and the department chairs have considered many alternatives for the Fall. Concurrently, other divisions of the College are developing adaptable support and operational plans that best suit the needs of our students, our employees, our College and our community.
Throughout this process, we will be resolute in adhering to the two core principles that have shaped our COVID-19 response from the outset: maintaining the health and safety of our College community and providing, with integrity, academic instruction from those healthy and safe frameworks.
I realize this new report approval process does little to quell your desire for clarity and certainty regarding the Fall. As soon as our plan receives favorable review or we can share a draft with you, we will do so.
It seems fitting that Orange County Community College’s Founder’s Day, June 9, is upon us. I reflect on the tenacity of a core group of forward-thinking citizens in the late 1940s having to explain the concept of this new thing called a “community” college. They were out there talking to a rural citizenry about the importance of an accessible place of higher education and that dollars spent on men and women they didn’t know in buildings that hadn’t been constructed would one day create a better Orange County, New York State, and world. I know we are those men and women, and while we aren’t in those buildings right now, I feel it is our special honor to keep things running from our spare bedrooms, kitchen tables and patios until we can get back to them. Our predecessors converted an estate at 115 South Street into a college for us; I know we keep the academic torch burning from our many points for the thousands of students who still want to learn from us and develop with us until we can be together again in Middletown and Newburgh.
As always, you can email me directly with ideas/questions or share them via the Ask Kris button on my webpage. I additionally encourage you to contact your supervisor with specific questions, concerns, and most importantly, ideas about your department.
Dr. Kristine Young