By Jhoana T. Merino-Martinez
FDU President Christopher Capuano spoke with the WCBS news radio on a recent episode of their podcast series “880 In Depth,” which aired Friday, July 10.
On July 8, President Donald Trump demanded that schools reopen for in-person classes, even threatening to withhold federal funding from public institutions that do not resume, stating that safety officials’ guidelines are “impractical” and “expensive.”
States that have been hot spots for COVID-19, like New York, are hesitant to open public schools under such White House pressure. At a news briefing on July 8, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo fired back with how schools will reopen, by law, with the state’s decision.
The “880 In Depth” interview was centered around how schools can expect to reopen, using Fairleigh Dickinson University’s structure for the fall semester as an example.
Capuano elaborated on the plan released in the president’s update on July 7, which stated the outline of FDU’s hybrid model.
He said that a personal distance of 6 feet will be required for indoors and outdoors, as well as masks to be worn in both cases. However, Capuano acknowledged that in accordance with the CDC social distancing guidelines, FDU cannot operate at full capacity.
“That recommendation means that we can’t reach full capacity in most classrooms. We’re hoping to reach 50% capacity, if possible,” he said.
Capuano gave listeners a glimpse into what a possible class scenario would look like in the fall.
“[CDC policies] would only allow half of a class, for example, to come on a given day and the other half … will not be physically there in the classroom,” he said.
“But then in the second meeting in a given week, they will then be in class and the other half, that was in class earlier in the week, will be participating remotely,” he added.
When asked how having a mix of resident and commuter students can complicate things, Capuano says that it will be more difficult to do contact tracing with nonresidents.
“In a perfect world, it would be nice to keep everyone on campus … and treat them as one big family unit, but that’s not reasonable. Commuters will add to our challenges,” he said.
Capuano was asked how FDU will protect staff and professors who, due to their age and/or medical conditions, would be more susceptible to the virus. He stated that there will be flexible teaching plans should staff apply.
“Faculty and staff who have an underlying condition … can request special accommodations, and they may even include … the ability to continue working from home. There’s going to be a fairly wide range of accommodations,” he said. “Our hope is that we would have a reasonably good balance of faculty who are teaching on campus as well as some who are teaching remotely.”
These accommodations will also extend to students who have high risk conditions.
“Everything that we’re planning for right now is contingent on the state getting to Stage 3 of the governor’s plan,” Capuano said.
“If we don’t get to Stage 3,” he said. “I don’t think we can reopen, in any form.”
Capuano said that college students tend to be the “biggest risk-takers,” recalling his own experience, yet he remains optimistic due to the novel situation.
“I’m hopeful that we can convince them, when they come back to campus, that they need to do this for others and not just for themselves. That’s the most important message,” Capuano said.
“I just have a good feeling, a special feeling about our students in particular … how much I’ve admired the many [students] who really exercised their right to express themselves in terms of speech and protesting in recent months relating to the social injustices that we’ve all been noticing,” he said.
“And I applaud their activism. They’re our future.”