As Ithaca College students, faculty and staff continue to get vaccinated, the college is planning to relax many restrictions related to COVID-19 and return to a pre-pandemic state in the fall semester.
As of May 5, full vaccination rates in New York state and the country have reached 36.4% and 32.3%, respectively. As of May 5, 49,635 people have been fully vaccinated in Tompkins County. In an Intercom announcement on April 7, Ithaca College President, Shirley M. Collado, outlined the college’s plan to reopen concerning vaccination expectations, the Fall 2021 academic calendar, dining and campus life.
“The expansion of vaccine eligibility and the increase of vaccine production have allowed the college to plan for a reopening of our campus this fall where in-person teaching, learning, and community-building can occur in ways that resemble a pre-pandemic ‘normal,’ with a greatly reduced risk of infection for our campus community,” she said in the announcement.
Collado said that whenever possible, campus life programming will transition to face-to-face experiences. These programs will include first-year experience events, student club and organization meetings and events and LGBTQ+ education and outreach services. Student support services offered by the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Student Financial Services, the Office of Counseling, Health and Wellness, the Office of Case Management and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life will be both online and in person. Athletic programming will fully reengage with the NCAA and Liberty League competition.
The academic calendar for Fall 2021 will return to normal, with the usual fall break occurring Oct. 14–15, and Thanksgiving break taking place Nov. 20–28. During Fall 2020, which was held remotely, fall break did not occur and Thanksgiving break was reduced to three days. Although some limited online classes will remain, the college will no longer offer dual instruction in the fall semester, Collado stated in the announcement.
Until classes begin on Aug. 23, conditions and state and federal guidelines may change, influencing the college’s policy, Collado stated in the announcement.
Scott McWilliams, director of Dining Services, said dining halls and other food services plan to return to operating like they did before the pandemic.
“Our expectation is to open up everything that we have,” he said. “We don’t know what the CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] and New York state are going to allow us to do with social distancing and all of that stuff, but we are going to open our coffee shops, our library — that’s our plan.”
McWilliams said he thinks Dining Services will hire approximately 60 more employees to staff the reopened facilities. He also said he believes the college will continue to use Grubhub at the Ithaca Bakery and the Food Court and may expand the service to the coffee shops as well.
Although new and returning students will be required to be vaccinated unless they are granted a medical or religious exemption by the college, arrival testing may or may not be required, Doreen Hettich-Atkins, executive director of the Division of Student Affairs and Campus life, said.
Hettich-Atkins said housing policies regarding masks, social distancing and the move-in process are yet to be determined, but she expects there will be fewer restrictions.
“There may still be restrictions related to physical distance or gathering size in place based on state guidelines, but our intention is that with full vaccination of our student population that we will not need to maintain restrictions related to visitors and that residential housing will look much closer to normal by the fall,” she said.
Ellyn Sellers-Selin, physician and medical services director of the Center for Counseling and Wellness, said the college hopes to eliminate the need for frequent surveillance testing during the summer and fall semesters for students who are vaccinated, while reserving the ability to test symptomatic students.
Sean Reilley, associate director of Recreational Sports at the Fitness Center, said he expects fitness center restrictions to relax, but that masks will very likely be required.
“With the vaccine requirement for students along with information recently published by the CDC we’re planning for a more ‘normal operation’ of the Fitness Center this fall,” he said. “That said, we’re still required to abide by guidance issued by New York State, which when followed is quite restrictive.”