The University of Wyoming intends to restart on-campus educational experiences this fall, with a mix of in-person and online courses and measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The UW Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved a plan for students to return to campus for the fall semester, contingent upon securing funding for implementation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act through the state of Wyoming.
Under the plan, classes will begin Aug. 24 and end Dec. 4, as scheduled. However, students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving; all courses will move to fully online instruction beginning Nov. 23, and final exams will take place through distance technologies.
“UW is looking forward to welcoming students back to campus for the fall semester. While the united work of everyone to go online in March resulted in a successful spring semester, the message is clear that we need to return to the on-campus experience,” acting president Neil Theobald said. “Over the last few months, our students, staff and faculty have helped develop a plan that puts us on a path to do so as safely as is reasonably possible during the era of COVID-19.”
The plan approved by the trustees calls for:
• Faculty members and academic departments to develop the best mix of in-person and online instruction, with classrooms scheduled to provide for social distancing. Every student will be offered a combination of online and face-to-face learning to allow for the greatest flexibility to provide students the in-person experience.
• Students and employees are to be tested for COVID-19 within 7-10 days of their return to campus. The university is arranging for saliva tests to be mailed individually to students and employees before the start of the semester; details on that testing will be provided later this summer. Online COVID-19 training also will be developed for students and employees to take before the semester begins.
• Students and employees developing symptoms that might indicate COVID-19 infection are to immediately report to health care providers, self-quarantine and submit to a coronavirus test. Consideration is being given to testing at intervals during the fall semester of all students and employees, not just those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, depending upon test availability and cost.
• During the semester, all employees and students to conduct daily temperature and symptom checks, self-reporting through a phone app that will be made available by the university. Also under consideration is a second, optional tracking app that allows users to be notified when they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. No identities are disclosed.
• While in communal spaces on campus, students and employees are to wear face coverings, provided by the university; comply with social distancing guidelines; and follow Gov. Mark Gordon’s directives on gatherings. Visitors will be encouraged to do the same.
• Extensive physical modifications will be made to ensure adequate social distancing and reduce density. This may include suspending the use of small classrooms and meeting rooms; spaced seating in rooms that are used; designating entrance and exit areas in highly trafficked spaces such as the Classroom Building and the Wyoming Union; turning off communal water fountains; and installing protective equipment. Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of high-touch surfaces also are part of the plan.
• Converting residence hall rooms to single rooms and modifying the residential dining plan to facilitate social distancing.
The plan, which was developed with input from the Wyoming Department of Health, is designed to be adaptable to allow for up-to-date information and changing conditions.
“While none of us can be certain about what the fall will look like, we’re doing everything we can to prepare for as much of the traditional on-campus experience as possible,” incoming president Ed Seidel said. “We’re looking forward to a successful semester. Ultimately, its success will depend upon the personal responsibility of everyone – and our ability to take action as needed. The planning group has done a very thorough job of preparing the university for this.”
The plan includes robust communication with UW students, employees and others as preparations continue during the summer – and during the fall semester itself. Check uwyo.edu/coronavirus for frequent updates.