The University of Wisconsin System released official guidelines Sunday for universities to safely reopen their campuses this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UW System President Ray Cross and Regent Andrew Peterson formally announced students will return to the 13 institutions across the state this fall. Along with this announcement, they released a series of recommendations for reopening campuses amid the pandemic.
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“We are preparing an environment that reduces risk so that students, faculty, and staff can return to campus in person this fall,” Cross said in the announcement. “We know the on-campus experience is what our students want. At the same time, we must all recognize that our universities will be different this fall than what we’re used to.”
The guidelines put out by the UW System’s COVID-19 Plan Ahead Task Force include maximizing face-to-face instruction, reorganizing classrooms to maintain social distancing and encouraging classes of 50 or more students to be moved online.
Other policy suggestions recommend that institutions adjust attendance policies so sick students stay home, as well as encouraging schools to optimize classroom spaces in the evening and on the weekends. The announcement also suggests for schools to “consider ending in-person classes” by Thanksgiving break.
The UW System guideline document details more in-depth information on how university faculty and programs should be reworked to maintain a safe campus environment amid the global pandemic. The guidelines includes recommendations for dining services to adapt their services to reduce groups of 10 or more, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
Additionally, the UW System encouraged residence halls to adhere to social distancing guidelines. In addition to regular wide-spread testing across campus, the new recommendations suggest that 5% of residence hall capacity be set aside for individuals who may need to be quarantined or isolated.
The UW System Vice President for Administration Rob Cramer said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the guidelines are intentionally left open-ended for individual campus leaders to make decisions best suited to their students.
Prior to the release of the central office’s recommendations this Sunday, many UW System schools have released their own reopening guidelines. UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-River Falls, UW-Platteville, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Green Bay and UW-Whitewater have all released their plans for the fall in varying detail.
The System’s two biggest campuses, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison, have yet to release formal plans outlining what their campuses will look like in the fall.
UW-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone said in an email to The Badger Herald that the administration is working to finalize their plans, and they expect to make an announcement in the next week.
“As Chancellor Blank has previously shared, multi-disciplinary teams have been working on developing plans for the upcoming academic year with the goal of resuming in-person instruction in Madison,” McGlone said. “Supporting the health of our community and providing an excellent educational experience remain our top priorities.
This article was updated on June 14 at 6:00 p.m. to reflect new information regarding a news release from the UW System and a new statement from UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone to The Badger Herald.