QUEENSBURY — A day before the start of classes, the campus of SUNY Adirondack was buzzing with activity.
But instead of enjoying the nice weather after moving in Tuesday afternoon, students were lining up for COVID-19 testing before isolating themselves in their dorm rooms to await results.
“It takes 24 hours,” said Robert Palmieri, the college’s vice president for enrollment and student affairs.
The college has partnered with SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse to conduct baseline saliva testing for all 132 of its students living on campus this year. Students began moving in Monday at spaced-out intervals to reduce contact between residents.
Regular testing will be conducted throughout the semester on a yet-to-be-determined schedule, Palmieri said.
“We’re still talking with the SUNY system on that,” he said.
Plans to test students living on campus were in the works prior to an outbreak at SUNY Oneonta, which was forced to switch to a virtual learning for the fall semester last week after hundreds of students tested positive for the virus.
SUNY Adirondack is a different environment, Palmieri said, but the rise in cases on campuses elsewhere has shown just how important testing is.
“I think the testing upfront, the baseline testing, is critical,” he said.
But testing campus residents is just one of several steps the college has taken this year to ensure a safe campus amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Services have been shifted online where possible in order to reduce density on campus. Professor office hours and tutoring will be conducted via Zoom videoconference, and most classes will be held remotely.
Palmieri said about 600 students a week will be taking classes on campus. The college, he said, is offering more than 700 classes this fall.
“Most of our classes are remote, to keep that congregation down,” he said.
A rigorous contact tracing program has been implemented in case of an outbreak, and the first floor of the south side of the dorm is reserved for students living on campus who test positive, Palmieri said.
Anyone looking to enter campus must do so through the college’s Haviland Road entrance where they are greeted by a series of traffic cones leading to a checkpoint a few yards away.
Students and faculty members must show proof they have completed a health questionnaire through a mobile app before being given a bracelet and allowed to proceed. Visitors must complete the short questionnaire with the help of a security guard.
Masks are required, and the college’s library is open only to students.
For Hannah West, a resident assistant starting her final semester, the college’s safety plan has created a sense of optimism.
“I think we’ll be OK,” she said.
West, a Warrensburg native, said she underwent extensive training after moving in last week and feels confident she can address any COVID-related concerns the 24 students she is overseeing may have.
But she won’t be afraid to crack down on anyone who steps out of line, including those looking to host parties or other gatherings in their dorm.
“I’m fine with being the bad guy, because I want us to stay here and I want us to not have any COVID cases,” West said.
Meanwhile, buildings throughout campus have designated entrances and exits. There are signs reminding students to wear masks and maintain at least 6 feet of social distance taped to every door.
Classroom capacity has been reduced, and desks have been spaced 6 feet apart in compliance with state guidelines. A rigorous disinfecting program is also in place, Palmieri said.
Student-run organizations will be meeting virtually, but Palmieri said small gatherings of less than 10 are a possibility as the semester progresses.
The college has set up an extensive orientation program that walks students through what to expect when classes begin.
Communication, Palmieri said, is paramount.
“We have a lot of videos and really extensive explanations on how things are done, so we’re doing our best in terms of trying to prepare our students for what they should expect,” he said.
Over at Dearlove Hall, signs in the building’s lobby offer a simple reminder.
“Practice & patience go a long way,” the signs read.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.
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