The University of Wyoming is taking steps toward a resumption of in-person classes for the fall 2020 semester.

In a presentation to the UW Board of Trustees last week, acting president Neil Theobald outlined efforts to develop a plan for a resumption of on-campus educational experiences – with a goal of presenting the detailed plan for the board’s consideration in late May or early June.

“While our students, faculty and staff have done a remarkable job of completing the spring semester through remote-learning technologies due to the coronavirus, one clear conclusion is the importance of an on-campus educational experience,” Theobald says. “We are developing a reopening plan that we believe will bring our students back to campus safely and protect the health of our community to the highest extent possible.”

The planning process is based upon five principles and standards:

• Keep the COVID-19 virus off of campus, to the extent possible – This includes mandatory diagnostic testing during the fall semester for all students and employees, along with testing of student-athletes and Department of Athletics employees during the summer. At this point, there have been eight confirmed COVID-19 cases in Albany County, and none have been connected with the university.

• Reduce the probability of transmission – This includes social-distancing measures in classrooms; converting residence hall rooms to single rooms; modifying the residential dining plan to facilitate social distancing; and use of masks or other personal protective equipment.

• Rapidly identify and contain cases – This includes contact tracing, a quarantine policy and provision of space to quarantine students who test positive.

• Reduce environmental contamination by extensively cleaning and disinfecting UW facilities – This includes hiring more custodians to increase cleaning of work spaces, common areas and high-touch surfaces.

• Provide clear communication and resources – This includes providing up-to-date information about numbers of COVID-19 tests and cases, as well as health requirements and guidelines for people on campus.

UW officials have estimated the cost of returning to in-person instruction, based upon these principles, at a total of $46 million for the fall semester. This includes $12 million for testing; $2.5 million for personal protective equipment; and $10 million for student financial aid.

In approving the preliminary outline today, the Board of Trustees authorized UW’s administration to submit a request to the state of Wyoming for federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“It is the well-being of our faculty, staff, students and members of the community – and decidedly not the university’s financial welfare – that will be paramount in our planning,” Theobald says. “We will bring a plan to the Board of Trustees that is informed by the input we’re seeking from members of our campus community, local and state health officials, state leaders and others.”

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