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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

What Students Should Know

As we return to campus in spring 2021, SUNY Potsdam’s first priority is the health and safety of our campus community, including our students, faculty, and staff. The best way to maintain the safest environment possible throughout 2021 and beyond is for each of us to take steps to minimize the risks, not only for ourselves, but for all members of the SUNY community. This includes:

  • wearing face coverings (masks)
  • hand washing
  • social distancing
  • participating in testing and tracing
  • completing daily screenings
  • being mindful of our surroundings and the impact we have
  • not traveling outside the North Country region

Any of us alone can spread this disease and cause harm to others. But all of us together can build a community that is safe and healthy, where educational success is possible.

Here’s what you need to know and do as SUNY and Potsdam welcome students back to campus in 2021:

Stay Informed

Stay up-to-date on the campus’ efforts regarding COVID-19, by visiting the Potsdam Prepared website.

Return to Campus Safely – Testing and Isolation Requirements

The campus will continue to follow all public health guidelines from local, state, and federal authorities, to include the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance on tiered approach in cases of possible exposure.

All Students (graduate and undergraduate, on both the Potsdam campus and Watertown extension site) will be asked to complete the symptoms tracker in the Student Health Portal for two weeks prior to arriving back to campus. In addition, students will be required to complete a 7-day self-quarantine prior to returning to campus. Upon arrival, they will complete an attestation of their self-quarantine. During the self-quarantine, they must:

  • Stay at home
  • If they have a job, make sure that they let their employer know that their last day of reporting to work is 8 days before they come to campus
  • Do not have visitors or visit friends
  • Wash their hands after touching a surface that is touched by others
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people in their household except for those traveling to campus with them to help them move in
  • Do not share things like towels and utensils with family members.

Any student requesting an exemption from precautionary quarantine according to SUNY Academic Continuity Guidelines (Revised 12/4/2020) can petition the interim Dean of Students.

We will test every student who will be residing on the main campus, coming to the main campus or the Watertown extension site for any reason, who are in an applied learning experience (i.e., student teaching) and/or living within a 15-mile radius of Potsdam or the Watertown extension site. We will work to test every student as close to their arrival as possible, striving to have everyone tested within 5 days of returning to campus. Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 3 months may present documentation in lieu of being tested. With the exception of the first testing date, for which we do not anticipate many residential students, residents will be required to be tested before card access to their residence hall is granted.

Full details on our return to campus testing and quarantine protocols can be found on our Student Move-In Guide.

Get Screened Daily

All students (graduate and undergraduate on both the Potsdam campus and Watertown extension site) will be asked to complete the symptoms tracker in the Student Health Portal for two weeks prior to arriving back to campus.

Everyone coming to campus, including students, must complete a daily health screening throughout the semester.

Employees who come to campus for any reason are required to complete the screening through the campus’ Qualtrics survey. The link can also be found in the Rave Guardian app.

Get Tested Regularly

SUNY Potsdam’s opening testing for students and employees will take place from January 28 through February 2, 2021. Students must self-quarantine until completing two rounds of testing and receiving negative results.

Surveillance testing will begin for all students and employees on February 8, 2021, and will continue weekly throughout the semester.

  • All students will be required to do a 7-day precautionary quarantine and then be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus.
  • For comprehensive surveillance testing, all of the following are required to be tested on an ongoing basis: 1) residential students, 2) local students living in a 15-mile radius, 3) any student with a reason to be on campus or completing an applied learning experience (i.e., student teaching). Surveillance testing is mandatory.
  • For surveillance testing, we are utilizing pooled saliva testing offered by Upstate Medical University.
  • Students must register before testing at
  • All students meeting the above criteria will be tested beginning the week of January 25. Students will receive an email indicating your appointment time.
  • Going forward, all students meeting these criteria will be tested weekly, on Mondays in the Barrington Student Union Multipurpose Room.
  • Students at our Watertown branch campus will have separate testing process due to their attendance at Jefferson Community College.
  • As always, any student with symptoms may receive a test through Student Health Services or their local healthcare provider.
  • SUNY Potsdam has protocols and residential spaces identified for quarantine/isolation, as needed for residential students, consistent with current NYS/public health guidelines.
  • All campus case numbers will continue to be tracked on the SUNY Potsdam website, in the interest of transparency.
  • Faculty and staff who report to campus for any reason, including dining services staff, are also required to complete mandatory weekly testing. Employee testing will be self-administered using the SUNY Upstate saliva tests. More details are available here.
  • Any employee who reports symptoms will be asked to get a test through their health provider and quarantine until they receive the results.

Check the COVID-19 Dashboard

SUNY maintains a comprehensive dashboard of COVID-19 testing and infection rate status across the system and at each campus. SUNY Potsdam’s case details can be found here.

Be Responsible – It’s Easy to Do Your Part

Each of us can take small steps to protect ourselves and the campus community, outlined in the BEAR (Be Ethical And Responsible) COVID-19 Pledge. Because COVID-19 is highly contagious, these simple measures apply both on and off-campus:

  • Wear face coverings (masks) at all times on campus, including in classrooms, conference rooms and other public spaces, even when you are able to maintain six feet of social distancing.
    • Exceptions to this requirement include when students are (1) in their private residential or personal space, (2) eating meals on-campus while seated and socially distanced, or (3) by themselves in a lightly trafficked location where no other persons are present. Faculty and staff are likewise exempt when alone in their office or other private spaces.
  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer where soap and water are not available.
  • Stay home when you are sick or have potentially been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Practice social distancing at all times to reduce transmission.
  • Don’t travel outside the North Country region.

If Exposed, Complete Mandatory Quarantine and Isolation

Students who test positive for COVID-19, who have been exposed to individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, or are informed by a state or local health department, or medical or campus official that they are “at risk” for having COVID-19 may be required to quarantine or isolate. This may include taking classes remotely, and not going to dining halls and other campus facilities. Students will be contacted by Student Health Services if they need to quarantine or isolate.  Residential students will also work with Residence Life who will assist them through the process.  The campus will work to assist students should they need help with the delivery of food and medicine.  Mental health, academic, and other supports will also be available.

Follow the Rules or Face Disciplinary Action

When the campus learns of a violation of the rules associated with COVID-19 safety, students may lose access to campus facilities and/or campus housing. Other disciplinary actions may be taken by the Student Conduct and/or Human Resources Offices. Student conduct is governed by the Potsdam’s Code of Conduct.  We urge you to pay close attention to the SUNY Potsdam BEAR COVID-19 Pledge, which outlines the campus’ COVID-19 expectations.  Minimum sanctions are outlined in the Uniform Sanctioning in Response to COVID-19 Student Violations. Consistent with SUNY policy, students who are partially or completely removed from the institution due to a violation are not eligible for refunds.

Take Care of Yourself – Physically and Mentally

We understand that this is an exceptionally challenging time. SUNY has resources to help you get the support you need.

Understand What’s Being Offered On-Campus and Online

For the Spring 2021 semester, 61% of classes will be offered fully virtually. Classes will begin on February 1, 2021. All classes will start remotely for the first two weeks of the semester, until two rounds of COVID-19 testing have been completed. Barring unforeseen circumstances, SUNY Potsdam plans to offer 39% of courses in a face-to-face format. To find the modality of your course, the format for all classes can be found in BearPAWS. For more information, please see our Academic FAQs and our Campus Life FAQs.

Get Instructional and Technology Help

SUNY Potsdam has numerous supports in place to help students succeed. For resources and contacts, visit our learning remotely page. For assistance with technology issues, contact the IT Service Desk or view our troubleshooting resources online.

Request Accommodations for Disabilities

Students who wish to disclose covered disabilities and receive reasonable accommodations for their disabilities should contact the Office of Accommodative Services.

Follow Housing and Dining Updates

Regular updates will be posted about housing and dining, which can be found on the Potsdam Prepared website and on the Residence Life and PACES websites.  

If We Have to PAUSE, Follow These Rules

If the campus must switch to a two-week (or longer) pause, the following rules apply:

  • Faculty will shift to fully remote instruction during the pause. Face-to-face instruction will return when the college receives approval to “restart” in-person classes. 
  • Students will have access to labs, studio space, practice rooms as directed by faculty 
  • Residential students will be allowed to remain on campus. 
  • Dining services will be grab-and-go only.  
  • All students and employees will be asked to limit their movements to essential needs only (attend their job, medical appointments, grab-and-go food, etc). 
  • Students in quarantine/isolation will be under the jurisdiction of St. Lawrence County Public Health and must comply with their directives. 
  • Student activities can continue to be offered, but must all take place online.  Students are encourage to visit often. 
  • Academic services, the College Counseling Center, Student Health Services and other offices will remain available to assist students. 
  • Testing may be increased if needed. 
  • All operations of the college will continue, with essential personnel reporting to serve our students. Non-essential employees should continue to work as agreed upon in their supervisor-approved work plans.  SUNY Potsdam will continue to strive to reduce density on campus, with a workforce that does not exceed 50%. 

Students will remain in the residence halls and/or their off campus locations, except if they are granted approval to leave the area by St. Lawrence County Public Health.  Students who wish to return after leaving the North Country area will need to receive permission from Eric Duchscherer, Interim Dean of Students. If a student is not allowed to return to the residence halls due to public health directives or unapproved travel outside the region, adjustments to bills may not be possible. For information on individual cases, contact Student Accounts.

If We Have to Pivot to Remote Instruction, Follow This Plan

In the event that the College must pivot to remote instruction, we will notify campus immediately, through Rave Alert texts, emails, posts to the website and reminders on social media. Students would be given the opportunity to apply for approval to remain on campus. Residence Life would establish protocols for a safe and socially distanced move-out process. Students would be required to test negative before leaving campus, as in the Fall 2020 semester. Any students remaining on campus or in the area would continue to complete mandatory surveillance testing, as would any on-campus employees. Student support services would remain in place and activities would shift online.

Changes & Updates

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic creates a fluid situation that may require unexpected changes in our response. Updates to scientific knowledge, public health guidance, or laws and regulations may mean SUNY and Potsdam have to make changes to our standards and rules, including those indicated above. SUNY and Potsdam will try to minimize these changes and their impact. We will keep you informed of new developments.

Thank you in advance for everything you are doing and will do to make 2021 safe for you, your fellow students, and the campus community and beyond.