Reopen NY: Iona College welcomes students back to classrooms for in-person learning

NEW ROCHELLE, Westchester County (WABC) -- Iona College welcomed students back to in-person classes Monday after a week of remote learning.

The private Catholic college in New Rochelle was one of the first to close its doors and send students home when the coronavirus pandemic began, and now -- five months later -- it is one of the first colleges to put students back in the classroom, albeit in hybrid form.

The resumption of classes comes with a long list of protocols, including hand washing, mask requirements, social distancing, enhanced cleaning, a 50% capacity restriction on dorms, and increased testing. Additionally, all fall sports have been canceled or postponed.

School officials say 60% of the 4,000 students are back on campus, while two-thirds of faculty and most adjunct professors returned to class as well.

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Students can expect to be tested at least three times this semester, and they were also asked to take a pledge to follow the new rules.

"One of the main things that is going to allow us to remain here for the rest of semester or the entirety of the semester is us all being on the same page regarding what we have to do in terms of social distancing," student Eddie Maffia said. "And just being smart and using good judgement."

Iona conducted the first week of undergraduate and graduate classes online only starting Monday, August 10, to give every student a chance to submit their negative COVID test results.

"You basically answer seven questions about how you are feeling, temperature, the basic COVID symptoms that you may have, whether or not you were around people who might have had it," student Courthney Normil said. "And then you get a QR code, it's green. You show it to your professor before you head to class."

The earlier start advances the semester by three weeks to minimize student travel, and students will not return after the Thanksgiving break as the next semester won't begin until 2021.

"If they do show a symptom, according to the Gael Care app, they will not be allowed onto campus," Director of Communications Diana Costello said. "They'll be asked to stay home and potentially to quarantine if there is a need to."
Additionally, Labor Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day will be considered non-holidays and classes will be held on those days.

Related: Penn State under fire for asking students to sign COVID-19 agreement

All fall classes will be held in a mixed-mode method with synchronous learning both in person and online, with the exception of classes already designated as distance learning, meaning the instructor will teach students who are learning in person and those who are learning remotely at the same scheduled time.

The class will meet on campus in a room outfitted with technology that allows students who cannot be present in the classroom to still be able to fully participate in the class online.

"If we do see a spike and we need to shift to the online, virtual environment again, we've done that," Costello said. "Now we're even better at it, and we'll be able to do so very seamlessly if we need to."

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