UW revises plan for fall semester, moves to phased return to campus
LARAMIE, Wyo. – Aiming to increase the likelihood of the University of Wyoming completing a successful fall semester with in-person experiences, the university has adopted a phased approach to bringing students back to campus.
The revised fall return plan was approved Wednesday by the UW Board of Trustees.
The semester will still begin Monday, Aug. 24, but all courses will be delivered online to start, and students who aren’t already on campus will be encouraged not to come at that time. The plan calls for some students to return by Monday, Sept. 7, when some in-person instruction begins. By Sept. 28, all students return for eight full weeks of face-to-face instruction in courses scheduled for that mode of delivery.
All courses will move to remote delivery Nov. 23, as called for in the original fall return plan created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We understand that this is a significant change for our students and families, complicating decisions regarding travel and other issues,” President Ed Seidel says. “However, this approach greatly increases the likelihood of our students having an opportunity for an on-campus experience in the safest manner possible — and avoiding an outbreak during the semester that would cause an even bigger disruption.”
The phased approach was developed in response to evolving information about COVID-19 showing that testing, contact tracing and rapid isolation — combined with measures such as requiring face protection and physical distancing — are crucial to minimize the spread of the virus on college campuses.
All UW students and employees are being required to take free COVID-19 saliva tests before returning to campus, through a third-party company called Vault Health. The university also is working to develop a comprehensive surveillance testing program that will involve employees and students on campus being tested twice a week during the semester. That program isn’t expected to be fully operational until Sept. 28, one of the reasons the semester will start Aug. 24 with all courses online. Random-sample testing will take place Aug. 24-Sept. 25 for those students and employees who are on campus.
The university is finalizing plans for specific cohorts of students to return Sept. 7 and communicate those details beginning at a Thursday, Aug. 13, town-hall meeting, including new move-in dates for students living in UW’s residence halls.
“We know our students and families will have many questions as a result of this change to a phased start to the semester. We will be ready to answer many of them at the town-hall meeting,” Seidel says. “But I believe strongly we have a plan that gives us the best chance possible to have a successful semester during a very difficult time. That, combined with the can-do spirit we all share as UW Cowboys, gives me a strong sense of optimism for the coming academic year.”
Photo: Allan Henderson | via Flickr.com/photos/allanhenderson/38199925886, cropped (CC BY 2.0)