At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, SUNY Empire State College quickly transitioned to 100 percent online and distance learning and instituted a series of support initiatives to keep our students on track despite new disruptions to daily life. In anticipation of sufficient levels of COVID-19 immunity, reduced infection rates, and appropriate and sufficient data and safety protocols, SUNY Empire will resume safe onsite operations and work practices in preparation for the 2021 Fall Semester. As we prepare to return to teaching and learning at our locations, SUNY Empire has begun to reimagine a new normal after more than a year of instructing and working remotely. Knowing that we need to be flexible and adapt if circumstances change, the college will continue to closely monitor and evaluate the situation as we move forward with our planning.
Fall 2021 Return at a Glance
Phased-in Approach from June through August
Return to academic instruction offered onsite, online, or both
Downstate faculty returns or moves into new locations, site-permitting
Full operations at our Saratoga administraive locations, along with weekly pool testing
With the portion of the state telecommuting agreement for COVID-19 and Vaccinations extended until October, 12, 2021, and the fall term beginning September 7, the phase-in window is small. To best accomplish a phased-in return to onsite work, we asked supervistors and department leaders to place staff into two groups in each location: Group A and Group B. In order to better accommodate employees and reduce building density, groups will go to work on consecutive two-day blocks. To facilitate a smooth return, we have developed the following guidelines and phases:
Phase 1: June
Staff as directed by President’s office to return onsite before July 2.
June 1: President’s Cabinet onsite a minimum of two days per week.
June 7: President’s Council onsite a minimum two days per week.
June 28: Director level, at a minimum of one day onsite that week.
Student contact and communication continues virtually.
Building doors remain locked, with ID badge access only.
Meetings may take place in small groups and will be limited to room capacities and socially distanced. SeeNYSDOH Guidance.
Phase 2: July 6 (many locations will return to this schedule on August 9)
All Phase 1 Cabinet and Council report (minimumMonday-Thursday) onsite.
Staff shall report onsite in groups.
Group A, a minimum ofMonday/Tuesday
Group B, a minimum of Wednesday/Thursday
Group A/B will be required to report with both groups (minimum Tuesday/Wednesday).
Directors will be expected to be onsite to welcome their groups.
Faculty on reading period may remain on reading period and are expected to return to their onsite locations at the end of reading period. However, faculty are welcome to use their offices as needed. For access, please email:COVID@esc.edu.
Student contact and communication continues virtually.
Building door remain locked, with ID badge access only.
Meetings may take place and should be limited to room capacities and socially distanced. SeeNYSDOH Guidance.
Phase 4: August 2 - September 3
Staff will return to July schedules, which for many will be an alternating A/B schedule.
August 23: students in-person services, by appointment only, until the start of the fall term on September 7.
September 7 - October 12, 2021
The current state telecommuting agreement for COVID-19 precautions and vaccinations has been extended as of September 3, 2021: Updated Telecommuting for COVID-19 and Vaccination (PDF 124kB). This allows employees given COVID-19 remote work accommodations to continue to telecommute through October 12, 2021. The deadline for SUNY Empire employees to receive at least one does of a COVID-19 vaccine has also been extended to October 12.
September 7 - December 31, 2021
The Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER) has approved SUNY Telecommuting Policy Fall 2021 (PDF 2,032kB). This now allows SUNY Empire State College to move forward with a campus-level telecommuting option from September 7 through December 31, 2021. Key aspects of the policy include:
Employees who receive approval for a telecommuting work plan will be eligible to work offsite for up to five (5) days per pay period.
Telecommuting arrangements will be approved only when they support the operational needs of the college and enable the college to continue providing the highest level of service possible.
The telecommuting policy applies across all bargaining units.
Student contact and communication allowed onsite according to and following room capacity levels beginning August 23.
Building doors are unlocked during business hours.
Meetings may take place and should be limited to room capacities and socially distanced.SeeNYSDOH Guidance.
Locations in Transition:
During the past year, SUNY Empire has closed certain locations. If you have a question regarding your new onsite location, or are not certain about where you should report, please reach out to the Office of Human Resources.
We are currently finishing construction projects at several new locations, which may cause a delay in opening at these sites specifically:
4 Park Ave, Manhattan
Brooklyn, Shirley Chisolm.
Early voluntary returns will be considered if you would like to return to the office earlier than your group. For consideration, please email COVID@esc.edu, and copy your supervisor.
SUNY Empire understands that individual employees, based on their personal circumstances, may be seeking flexibility in how they manage their professional and personal responsibilities, especially as we return to work. There are several options for individual employees to explore flexibility, both in the return-to-work phase-in process, and beyond.
Individuals interested in requesting a modified phase-in schedule will need supervisor and HR approval. Requests should be made by submitting theAlternate Phase in Schedule COVID 19toHuman Resources by September 7.
Please consider the following options to help in assisting your return to work after August 1. The college offers these options to support work-life flexibility:
Alternative Work Location Request Process (professional employees only). An alternate work location assignment or schedule is defined as a working arrangement of a specified limited duration. All requests should be made using theAlternate Work Location Request.
Voluntary Work Reduction Schedule (VRWS). VRWS is a program for employees to voluntarily trade income for time off. The program allows for a reduced work schedule of between five (5) and thirty (30) percent. Employees may participate in the program for up to twenty-six (26) payroll periods, which is equivalent to one year. All VRWS requests should be made through department supervisors in consultation with the Office of Human Resources.
Use of appropriate leave accruals with prior approval from supervisor. Employee Assistance Program(EAP) is designed to help state employees better balance work and life, as well as more serious problems that may impact work performance. EAP services are confidential, voluntary, and offered at no cost to employees and their families.
ForADA accommodations, please contact the Office of Human Resources. Requests for accommodations will be granted based on ADA federal guidelines. Please complete the
At this time, SUNY Empire requires all faculty, staff, students and visitors to wear a mask inside its locations, regardless of vaccination status. For further information on masking guidance, please consult the updated Return to Work Plan 8/21 (PDF 706kB).
SUNY Empire State College leadership continues to monitor the evolving response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated masking guidance, recommending fully vaccinated individuals resume wearing masks indoors in areas of substantial or high transmission. This comes in response to an increase in what are known as “breakthrough infections” as a result of the Delta variant now circulating in the United States. Several of our sites fall within the “substantial or high transmission” zones.
In late July, Governor Cuomo announced that all 130,000 state employees will be required to receive a full regimen of a two-dose or single-dose COVID-19 vaccine by Labor Day, September 6. With the extension of the portion of the state telecommuting pilot program related to COVID-19 accommodations and vaccinations, this date has now been extended to October 12, 2021. This includes faculty and staff here at SUNY Empire. Faculty and staff who do not get vaccinated, whether by personal choice, or for medical or religious exemptions, must undergo COVID-19 testing once a week. The state is currently working with our respective unions to finalize an agreement on this program.
Important Employee Document
All state employees, including those at SUNY Empire State College, have been asked to read, sign, and return a form to human resources, entitled Revised Guidance for State Agencies Affirmation (PDF 167kB). The form was drafted by the New York State Department of Health and outlines minimum guidelines that all employees must follow regarding masking, social distancing, and other health and safety protocols based on their vaccination status. By signing this document, you acknowledge the updated health and safety protocols. Employees will not be required to show proof of vaccination status. However, if you are unvaccinated or do not submit proof of vaccination status, you will be required to participate in weekly pooled or individualized testing depending on your campus location.
After reading the form carefully, you must sign it at the bottom and return it to email@example.com or Kyle Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org in human resources. Signed forms must be submitted by July 9, or no later than three business days after an employee returns to work.
Do I need a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, if you are accessing SUNY Empire in-person, you must receive a COVID-19 vaccination with limited exceptions.
With the FDA's full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, SUNY policy requires students attending in-person classes or receiving any in-person academic services and supports to be fully vaccinated. Students remaining fully remote or online will not need to submit proof of vaccination, but will need to agree to not access our locations in person. Students may also seek medical or religious exemptions. Virtual supports will remain.
Our students play an important role in keeping the SUNY Empire community healthy and safe. In this unpredictable and ever-changing environment, we ask that you check our website and your email regularly to stay up to date on our protocols. Please take these protocols seriously and help in every way you can. We’ve asked the same of our faculty and staff.
Vaccines and Verifications
What are the important links to verify my Fall 2021 plans?
Beginning on August 23, most SUNY Empire locations will reopen to students for full in-person services, by appointment only. Students may then resume in-person course instruction from the start of the Fall 2021 semester on September 7. Some SUNY Empire locations are in a transition phase and/or undergoing renovations. Those locations are as follows:
4 Park Avenue, Manhattan
Shirley Chisholm, Brooklyn
We will update you on the reopening status of those locations.
How do I make an appointment?
First, please contact your faculty member or mentor to schedule an appointment, either via email or phone call.
Then, you must complete the Empire Entry procedure, powered by the Envoy app, to enter a location. After downloading the app to your smart device, simply log in using your SUNY Empire username and password, and register at the location you would like to enter by responding to the COVID-screening questionnaire in the app. Once you’re registered, you must sign in at your designated location in the app, and sign out upon leaving.
If you do not have a smart device, you may complete Empire Entry upon arriving at your location by accessing the iPad kiosk at the building’s main entrance.
Testing and Tracing
Fully vaccinated employees will be exempt from mandatory weekly testing, once they provide documentation showing they’ve completed a full vaccination series. Employees can provide proof of vaccination by scanning and submitting a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card or proof of vaccination from the NYS Excelsior Pass to Kyle Parker (email@example.com) in the Office of Human Resources.
Weekly COVID testing will be required for ALL onsite employees and students who are not vaccinated. Test kits will be made available to all employees and students per set schedule outlined below. Per SUNY guidelines, COVID testing will need to be submitted once a week. Tests are submitted to testing labs. Depending on the size of your location, you will be using either a pooled or individual testing protocol.
Pooled testing combines test swabs from several people, which are then tested in a single batch. Here is the process for pooled testing:
Collect your test kit at your work site on designated days and times.
Follow directions on registering and testing.
Submit your test sample in the designated location.
You will be notified only if your pool tests positive.
If your pool tests positive, you will hear froma contact tracer and be required to quarantine until the positive test(s) is identified, which usually takes a day or two. Positive tests will be reported to your county health department. Those who test positivewill be interviewed for contact tracing purposes and required to quarantine at home for 10 days from the date of the positive result. If you are negative in that pool andwere not in close contact with the positive test, you may return to work the next day.
Anyone identified as being in close contactfor a prolonged period with the individual who tested positive will be required to quarantine for 10 days, unless vaccinated and showing no symptoms (based on current guidance).
Individual testing is done on one person at a time. The process is:
Collect your test kit at your work site.
Follow directions on registering and testing.
Submit your test sample by following the provided mailing instructions.
You will be notified only if your pool tests positive.
If your individual test comes back positive, you will hear from a contact tracer and be required to quarantine. Positive tests will be reported to your county health department. Those who test positive will be interviewed for contact tracing purposes and required to quarantine at home for 10 days from the date of the positive result.
Anyone identified as being in close contact for a prolonged period with the individual who tested positive will be required to quarantine for 10 days, unless vaccinated and showing no symptoms (based on current guidance).
If you are required to quarantine due to a positive test, or through contact tracing, you should work with your supervisor to determine whether you can continue to work while quarantined.
If you are not able to work while in quarantine, you should contact the Office of Human Resources about how to use COVID-19 leave, based on the most recent Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines. The COVID-19 leave eligibility is still in effect. It can be used for those placed in a mandatory or precautionary quarantine and do not have the ability to continue to work from home for up to 14 days. Any questions should be directed to the Office of Human Resources.
Empire Entry: Checking into Your Location
Effective May 10, 2021, SUNY Empire State College transitioned to a new Empire Entry procedure powered by the Envoy Protect app. The app is a quick and convenient way to sign in and out of our campus locations, ensure faculty, staff, and students are healthy and symptom-free, and monitor capacity and visitor activity, all while eliminating the use of shared pens, notepads, and other items. Empire Entry is part of our ongoing effort to keep employees healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each time you wish to enter a SUNY Empire location, you will be required to complete the Empire Entry process. Simply access the Envoy app on your smart device and register at that location at least one hour before arriving by completing the health assessment. You must attest that you are free of COVID-19 symptoms to register and enter.
The Envoy app can be downloaded to either your Appleor Androiddevice. If you don’t have a smart device, or are unable to register before your arrival, you will have the option to register by accessing the app via an iPad kiosk at the main entrance of each location.
You may also schedule your arrival at a site up to 24 hours in advance on the app. Employees who need to enter multiple locations on a given day will have to submit a new registration for each location and must sign out upon leaving. For further instructions on how to use the app, please review this guide.
To be eligible to work or attend classes onsite, employees or students must be free of ANY symptoms potentially related to COVID-19 or have had an evaluation and been cleared by their primary care provider. The CDC has provided the following list of potential symptoms:
Have you tested positive for COVID-19 through a diagnostic test in the past 14 days?
Is your temperature greater than or equal to 100°F?
Have you had any known close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
Are you currently experiencing any of the following symptoms?
Shortness of Breath
New Loss of Taste
New Loss of Smell
If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions on a day you are scheduled to report to onsite work, you will not be able to report to onsite work and your supervisor will be notified. If you are unable to report to work, proper leave time will have to be charged.
If the answer is “No” to all of the screening questions, you will receive the “Green Check” to enter work. Detecting these symptoms or potential exposures early, before the employee/student even arrives onsite, will help reduce potential exposure to, and spread of, the virus.
The Daily Health Report is electronic and easily found by using the Envoy App. You can download this app to your smart phone or tablet. This app will also be helpful to receive updates and any announcement notifications.
Additional Mask Guidance
At this time, SUNY Empire requires all faculty, staff, students and visitors to wear a mask inside its locations, regardless of vaccination status.
All staff share the responsibility of educating and informing visitors (including students) of our COVID protocols. Students should be told of our expectations from the start. Simply offer one of our disposable masks to anyone who is not wearing a mask. Any student or visitor refusing to wear a mask in a classroom setting is in violation of our protocols and should be asked to leave.
Students failing to comply with COVID protocols are to be referred to the student conduct officer David Caso firstname.lastname@example.org further action. We do not anticipate confrontations at our locations, but if you encounter a situation that becomes confrontational, you should immediately remove yourself and notify your supervisor. Employees failing to comply with COVID protocols will be referred to the Office of Human Resources.
Limited exemptions are as follows:
Medical reasons: Employees who are unable to wear face masks due to a medical or other health condition should consult with the Office of Human Resources at (518) 587-2100, ext. 2240.
Eating and drinking: You do not have to wear a face covering when actively eating or drinking while seated in areas with appropriate social distancing. If you are in a break area and not in the act of eating or drinking, you should wear your mask.
Individual space: Face coverings can be removed only when alone in a cubicle or office, or when outside the buildings while following social distancing guidelines.
Group vaccination: If all staff in a shared office space provide proof of vaccination to the Office of Human Resources, this may relieve a small group from mask wearing in a specified shared office space. HR approval is required and six feet of social distancing will still be needed.
All guests and students should enter through the building’s main entrance. This will ensure proper sign in and health reporting at the tablet kiosk.
Main entranceswill have the following signage:
If not vaccinated, wear a mask upon entering.
Complete Empire Entry, powered by Envoy.
Appointments are recommended.
Wash and sanitize hands frequently.
Please be sure to sanitize surfaces after use.
For side entrances, there will be signs directing students and visitors to use the main entrance and be sure to sign in.
Classroom capacities will be noted on the entrance along with a reminder to maintain six feet of social distance and not move the properly spaced furniture. All bathrooms will have appropriate handwashing signs.
Classrooms will feature signs reminding students to wear masks and sanitize hands.
Under the direction of the SUNY Empire State College cabinet, the Return to Onsite Work Committee was charged with providing college leadership with a recommended framework, operational plans (including safety protocols), communications plans, and minimum staffing plans for the fall 2021 term for the following scenarios: 1) ~100% return to onsite operations; 2) ~40%; 3) ~25%. Under the direction of co-chairs Tai Arnold and Jeff Kurto, the committee, consisting of representatives from across the college, evaluated these contingencies, presenting their recommendations to cabinet on April 5.