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What could college semesters look like post COVID-19?

Canisius College is just one of the local colleges that will be working in changes to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As Western New York begins entering the re-opening phases, Canisius College is planning on welcoming students back to campus come fall. 

In an announcement made to the College's website Tuesday, the school says they are planning to start the fall semester on August 31 and is working with a Recovery Task Force to keep students safe.

That task force would include a broad range of people from across the college, including the Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Daniel Dentino, and the Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Sara Morris, who would shape what the academic calendar and learning look like in this new reality.

On a Canisius College Alumni Association Zoom call Tuesday evening, President John Hurley began the meeting by addressing how the campus has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Hurley said, "We are not preparing for if there is an outbreak, but when there is an outbreak." 

In order to comply with social distancing guidelines, Hurley said a lot of changes will be made on campus. 

One of the ways includes the fall semester schedule. Normally, the fall semester would extend into December, with final exams usually given in the second week. Starting Fall 2020, the college is tentatively planning to end in-person classes by Thanksgiving, avoiding the fall holidays altogether, and with it, many students traveling back and forth to celebrate with family and loved ones.

Another staple of the college dorming experience — roommates — would also be gone come fall. Hurley said most residents halls would most likely be single-room-occupancy. The college is awaiting further guidance from New York State about quad, or "family" dorm rooms. 

Hurley said, "The question is... can we effectively quarantine students who test positive? Can we isolate students who have been exposed to someone who tested positive? And can we control the spread? And that's one of the problems with the residence halls. How much quarantine or isolation space are we going to have while we're trying to put students into single rooms?"

That's not the only part of the campus cutting down on occupancy. Classrooms will also see class sizes slashed, and Hurley says professors have been asked to think creatively on how to focus more lessons online. 

"They wouldn't be classified as 'online learning,' because that is usually half in-class, half online," Hurley said. "But we're asking faculty to make more of their content available to students online, and use class time for other things."

As for larger lecture classes, the campus is looking at hosting them in other large event spaces where people can be properly socially distanced —  places like the Koessler Athletic Center, Montante Cultural Center, Christ the King Chapel, or the Grupp Lounge above the dining hall.

Speaking of the dining hall, eating shifts may be implemented as well to make sure it's not overcapacity. When 2 On Your Side asked about plans for communal areas, Hurley said the college is "working out the details." Students would be encouraged to do as everyone is —  to wear masks, keep six feet apart, and sanitize in shared spaces. Campus events would also be limited to 50 people.

"I don't know what social events are going to look like next year," Hurley said.

Canisius College stopped its abroad programs, as well as its service immersion programs back in March. Hurley says that would continue at least into the next school year.

MORE: Canisius College limits international travel amid coronavirus concerns

Financially, the college has taken a huge hit and is preparing for more potential loss in the future. According to Hurley, Canisius has taken a $5 million hit on their residence budget, with a $2 million hit on just room and board alone. Hurley expects a 10 percent decrease in enrollment for next year. He said that not only are freshmen not registering as much as years prior, but other levels like the sophomores may also opt to wait longer before re-enrolling.


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