The first wave of SUNY Oneonta students began returning to campus this week.

The college’s reopening plan, approved by the state and released in July, directed that move-in be staggered throughout the next several weeks according to major and course requirements.

“This will manage population density as students return to campus and lessen the chance of spreading COVID,” said Lachlan Squair, chief facilities planning and safety officer at SUNY Oneonta. “Our aim is to keep the campus community, and the larger community, safe.”

Prior to arriving on campus, students were required to self-quarantine at home for seven days, and longer if they were traveling from a state listed on the New York state travel advisory list or another country, according to Squair. Two residence halls are reserved for quarantine and isolation in the event a student is infected or suspected of having the virus.

Many students opted to remain home for the semester and complete their classes online, according to Squair.

“This move-in looks very different from prior years,” he said. “The numbers are greatly reduced.”

Malajea Coleman, a SUNY Oneonta sophomore from Brooklyn, said she chose to come back because she needs her own space.

“I feel like I work best when I have my own space,” she said.

Cathy Hendrickson, who drove two hours from Elmira to drop off her eldest daughter, Austin Gleason, for her freshman year, said she wasn’t nervous about her daughter living on campus, but made sure she was equipped with plenty of hand sanitizer and extra masks.

“It’s been 18 years of prepping her to go out in the world, no matter what it looks like,” Hendrickson said. “In our family, if you’re not living, you’re dying. She wants to be here.”

Josh Sturiale, a freshman from Long Island, said he wanted to experience campus life with two of his friends who are also attending the college.

“We’re more excited than nervous,” said his mother, Trish Sturiale.

In addition to the staggered move-in, the college will delay its Pass Through the Pillars event for new students, citing restrictions on public gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic and “the inability to create a comparable experience for those students who choose not to come to campus this fall.”

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the safest opening possible,” Squair said. “The process has been running smoothly and we have no problems to report.”

For information on SUNY Oneonta’s protocols, visit suny.oneonta.edu/fall-2020-re-start-plan

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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