Spring break is one of the most discussed moments regarding a student’s experience at the University of Wisconsin. It is filled with people working, resting, escaping the cold, visiting relatives and more.
Last March, many break plans were interrupted with COVID-19, while others remained in place. Since we did not return to campus, it was difficult to see how these decisions would have affected campus. But, the recent surge from the return to campus for this semester suggests a similar result would have occurred. For this reason, and the lack of likelihood of an effective, widely distributed vaccine by March 2021, UW made the responsible decision to restructure the spring semester to not include a spring break. With this decision, UW needs to focus on creating aid for students who need motivation, mental resources and any additional help throughout the semester, as mental health is just as much a priority as physical health.
This message hopefully expresses the importance of rethinking events, holidays and breaks prior to spring break. In order to contain this virus, people must continue to limit their travel until there is a successful vaccine. Though fall and early winter are considered “holiday seasons,” we all need to find ways to celebrate these responsibly.
As Thanksgiving is the first break for campus, and students will not return to in-person classes afterward, it is essential for us to monitor our plans for winter break. Since we are all dealing with this virus, there are many online suggestions for celebrating Thanksgiving.
A phrase that has surfaced recently is “family Zooms.” This is an alternative for people who cannot safely travel to visit their families during this time. It is clearly not an ideal situation, but there are ways that could make it more exciting. For example, you could send each other a package with the supplies to make a certain dish that you like, or they like, so they can make it for the day. Another option if people are unable to send packages is to simply swap recipes. You could each send one of your favorites, or surf the internet to find something that interests you!
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There could be a similar exchange for the December holidays. With online ordering, you could order presents directly to another person and make them wait to open it until you can be on a call with them. There are many online ideas and games that are free or inexpensive that you can play with your friends and family during this time. Since there have been many suggestions all throughout quarantine, this is an opportunity to get creative and find ways to make individual acts unifying. Perhaps instead of just reading a book, you gift the book to others and you start a short book club over break.
Since the campus will not reopen after Thanksgiving until the end of January, it is also possible for students to return home for the entire duration. To prevent spreading the virus to the members of their household, they should get tested prior to leaving their campus residence.
While home, they might try some of the online ideas to connect with their friends who remain in Madison or those who have also gone home. They should also get tested either before returning or plan not to leave their residence until they can get a result from a local testing center in Madison. This is our strongest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so it is imperative that we take advantage of the resources we have. There are many people on and around campus who are at increased risk, and we all need to ensure that we consider each other when we plan for our breaks.
It is the responsibility of the University to ensure the safety of the students, not just provide education for them, so they need to create and release a comprehensive plan for next semester that addresses the additional challenges of the spring in addition to their elimination of spring break.
The University has taken actions to address the severity of the risk attached to school breaks, so the students need to as well. Above all else, we need to ensure that everyone involved in our decisions for breaks feel safe and we need to remain conscious of the risk to our communities.
Carter Olson ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in English.