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SVA Responds to COVID-19

Read the latest on SVA’s response to the coronavirus and find the resources you need.

Reopening SVA

Our Plans for Returning to Campus in the Fall

July 1, 2020
A photograph of the facade of SVA's building at 209 East 23rd Street in Manhattan.

School of Visual Arts is fully committed to ensuring the health and well-being of its students, staff and faculty. Returning to SVA will be done carefully, in accordance with New York State’s phased plans for reopening New York City. Read on for the latest news about our plans to reopen, and be sure to check back for updates. Information about SVA's current operations and our response to COVID-19 can be found here. Information on the Fall 2020 housing plan can be found here.

June 17, 2020 Notification from President David Rhodes

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

On May 27, we celebrated the graduation of some 1,280 degree candidates of the School of Visual Arts in our 45th Commencement exercises. While the ceremony was conducted virtually, the achievements and artistic energy of this new group of SVA alumni were as palpable and real as ever. 

Reaching this milestone within the apex of a global pandemic is a truly remarkable accomplishment. We achieved it by working collaboratively, moving swiftly to a new model of remote learning and working, and taking measures to ensure a safe environment for residents and essential workers. I appreciate the part you played in making the spring semester successful. In a few short but intense months, we have developed ways—and are continuing to develop ways—to not only pull through this ongoing crisis, but to create effective new modes of operating in the future—modes that provide a wider range of flexibility, deeper levels of innovation and higher levels of safety and security.

On May 8, Provost Christopher Cyphers announced our plan to reopen the College on September 28. Many of you are asking how this will happen. This letter begins to answer your questions, based on actions we’re taking and information currently available to New York State institutions of higher education and the public at this date. Additional information will be provided to you as the summer progresses and the plan is finalized.

Reopening Plan

The plan for reopening SVA is being developed by a Pandemic Recovery team that includes SVA’s Emergency Management Committee (EMC), in collaboration with a crisis recovery consultancy. This plan follows the latest guidelines and requirements provided by federal, state and city authorities and the American College Health Association. Every decision we make about reopening is informed by those guidelines and requirements, the expertise of EMC members in leadership positions from across the College, and our firm commitment to providing a safe, healthy environment for everyone at the College.

A Safe, Phased-In Return

Returning to SVA will be done carefully, in phases that are in accordance with New York State’s phased plans for reopening New York City. Phase 1 of reopening NYC began on June 8, for manufacturing, construction and retail. Phase 2, which we anticipate may be as early as June 22, will enable institutions of higher education to reopen with a reduced workforce. During this phase, SVA may begin allowing a limited number of staff to return to prepare for the fall semester. Here is what we can expect during Phase 2:

  • A reduced staff will return on a staggered schedule. Scheduling will be determined by individual department heads
  • Some administrative departments will continue to work remotely
  • No students will be permitted to access academic buildings
  • Social-distancing and face-covering practices will be in effect (see below)

Facilities Preparation

We are keeping facilities clean and safe for essential employees, and preparing for the returning SVA community by taking the following measures:

  • Performing frequent cleanings and disinfecting throughout all buildings, with additional, frequent wipe-downs of all high-touch surface areas, such as door handles, bathroom surfaces, elevator buttons and countertops
  • Introducing the use of electrostatic sprayers to sanitize surfaces throughout the buildings
  • Flushing out pipes in all buildings
  • Replacing HVAC filters with high-efficiency filters to help reduce transmittal of airborne viruses and bacteria
  • Preparing social-distancing markings for common spaces, including lobbies and elevator banks
  • Posting health-protocol communications
  • Installing protective shields at security stations, libraries, equipment check-out stations and other close-contact areas
  • Procuring sufficient cleaning and sanitizer supplies for all buildings
  • Procuring required protective supplies for the full community, per New York State guidelines

Personal Protection and Responsibility

New York State schools will be opened during Phase 4, which is expected to align with our September opening date. At this time, students can return, as well as a larger number of administrative staff, with others continuing to work from home, at least in some capacity. Everyone at SVA will be expected to play their part to protect the health of themselves and others in the community. Here is what you can expect during Phases 2–4: 

  • Daily health attestation and self-symptom screening
  • Social distancing in all SVA spaces
  • Required wearing of masks or face coverings
  • Supplies of masks and gloves will be provided as long as we are required to do so
  • Cleaning supplies for the interim cleaning of classroom and office surfaces

I appreciate all of your patience and understanding as we continue to refine the reopening plan and develop details on new policies for learning and working at SVA. I know these are anxious times and it is difficult to deal with uncertainties. I am confident that, just as we have in the past, the SVA community will work together to persevere through this challenge and come through it stronger than ever. 

David Rhodes


Note: this notification was edited on June 19, 2020.