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Back to school: UW releases draft plan to re-open campus in the fall

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On June 2, the University of Wyoming (UW) released a draft plan to re-open campus for the 2020 fall semester. The plan, based on the work of over 100 faculty members, staff, students and administrators in five working groups, focuses on topics including scheduling and instructional delivery, research, social structure, university operations, personnel and policies as well as community and state interaction.

According to UW, the plan includes a combination of in-person and online courses as well as cautionary measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. It was also designed to be adaptable and allow for up-to-date information and changing conditions. 

            “It has become clear our students and our state are depending upon the university to return to some semblance of normalcy this fall, and this plan charts a course to do so as safely as reasonably possible,” states Acting President Neil Theobald.

“Of course, there are risks associated with bringing students back to campus, but the risks of not doing so are even greater. We intend to do what we can to minimize the risks for our students, faculty, staff and state,” he continues.

Semester scheduling

            Under the plan, UW would maintain a 15-week semester with classes beginning Aug. 24 and ending Dec. 4. 

However, students would not return to campus after Thanksgiving break. Instead, all courses would move to fully online instruction beginning Nov. 23, and final exams would take place through distant, online technologies. 

Because of this, the two-day mid-semester break, originally scheduled for Oct. 15-16, as well as the three days before Thanksgiving would be converted to instructional days. 

            Additionally, under the plan, the spring 2021 semester would begin Jan. 25, one week later than initially planned, and spring break would be eliminated. 

            “The idea with these schedule changes is to reduce the risk inherent with students leaving campus during the semester, then returning from other locations where the coronavirus may be prevalent,” Theobald says. 

Curbing COVID-19 transmission

            A critical part of the university’s plan to return to campus is to curb the transmission of COVID-19. 

            According to the university’s press release, UW plans on requiring students and employees to be tested for COVID-19 and provide results within 14 days before they return to Albany County, or Natrona County for UW-Casper.

“Those testing positive would have to self-isolate for 14 days, and be retested before returning to campus or work. Online COVID-19 training also would be developed for students and employees to take before the semester begins,” reads the press release. 

            During the semester, all employees and students would also be required to conduct daily temperature and symptom checks, then self-report through a phone app that will be made available by the university.

            “Students and employees developing symptoms that might indicate COVID-19 infection would be required to immediately report to health care providers, self-isolate and submit to a coronavirus test,” states UW. 

            While in communal spaces on campus, the plan will require students and employees to wear face coverings provided by the university, comply with social distancing guidelines and limit gatherings. Visitors would be encouraged to do the same. 

 “Ultimately, personal responsibility is the key for us to have a successful semester from a public health standpoint,” Theobald says. “We will be counting on everyone to contribute to the well-being of our community.”

Social distancing modifications

On top of personal responsibility measures, the plan also provides for extensive physical modifications to ensure adequate social distancing and density reductions. 

According to UW, these 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 installation of protective equipment. 

“Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing of high-touch surfaces are also part of the plan,” states UW. “Work is underway to convert residence hall rooms to single rooms and to modify the residential dining plan to facilitate social distancing.” 

UW notes implementation of this plan would require the university to secure federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act through the state of Wyoming.

 “This will be a heavy lift for everyone and we will continue to work on many details, but we are on track to be ready for a successful fall semester,” Theobald says. “There’s no way to guarantee the health and safety of everyone, but this plan puts us on a path to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the UW community while delivering a quality education experience.” 

            Hannah Bugas is the assistant editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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