A significant decline in COVID-19 cases and the increasing availability of vaccines have prompted the University of Wyoming to adjust its spring semester plan, allowing students and faculty the option of continuing in-person experiences throughout the semester, according to a university press release.
Instead of asking students to leave UW’s residence halls and encouraging students to not return following UW’s abbreviated spring break March 31-April 4, the university will maintain residential hall living as an option, as well as continuing to offer student support programs and activities. Some faculty members may continue or convert to face-to-face classes through semester’s end. Requirements for the wearing of masks, social distancing and COVID-19 testing will continue.
“The very positive outcome of our ongoing measures to manage the spread of the virus, combined with the faster-than-expected rollout and acceptance of vaccines, has allowed us to make this change for those who’d like to remain on campus after spring break,” UW President Ed Seidel said. “We realize that many students, based on our original plan, have already made plans to go elsewhere and complete the semester online. They definitely will be able to do so. But, conditions have improved to the point that, for those who’d like to continue with a campus experience, we’re able to welcome them to stay.”
This shift is another step toward UW’s plan for a more traditional fall 2021 semester with fewer COVID-19 restrictions — contingent upon vaccine availability and acceptance, along with continued downward trends in infection numbers. There currently are just nine reported cases of COVID-19 among UW students and employees, and vaccines are rolling out more quickly than had been expected when the university originally established its spring semester plan.
In fact, all UW employees, and students with certain health conditions, are now eligible to be vaccinated. It’s also possible that vaccines will be available to all students before the end of the spring semester.
Before the university’s decision to shift from its all-online plan following spring break, a number of faculty members received exemptions to continue in-person instruction through the semester’s end. Instructors who had been teaching in person now have the ability to continue with that modality; and some who have been teaching online may shift to in-person instruction. It’s not yet known how many courses will be conducted in person, as instructors are now following a process to select course modality and find space for in-person classes.
In all cases, faculty members will be required to accommodate students opting to attend virtually, even if the instructors have chosen to continue with or shift to face-to-face instruction.
“We encourage students to base their decisions on their individual situations, informed by what they hear from their instructors and any living or work arrangements they made previously,” Seidel said. “This shift is not intended to create uncertainty for those who’d planned to leave campus for the rest of the semester. But, for those students who have a desire, and for whom it makes sense, we welcome them to stay.”
The final day of classes is May 6, and finals week is May 10-14. The university announced last week that spring commencement May 14-15, would take place with modified face-to-face ceremonies that are livestreamed. The in-person ceremonies will be conducted in the Arena-Auditorium, with each graduate allowed a limited number of guest tickets. Social distancing and face masks will be observed in the seating of both the graduates and their guests.
“We are all looking forward to the day when we no longer have to socially distance, wear masks and be tested regularly. But those measures have helped us to get to this point, and continuing them through the spring semester will put us in the best position to return to a pre-pandemic environment in the fall,” Seidel said. “There’s every reason to believe that continuing these measures for a little longer, while we’re all being vaccinated, will put us in a great place for the type of fall semester we all want to see.”
Even with continuation of masking, distancing and testing requirements for those on campus after spring break, students will have a variety of in-person activities in which to participate. These include entertainment and activities such as movie nights, laser tag, trivia competitions, paint parties and intramural athletics. Additionally, to provide a new, safe gathering place for students, UW Student Affairs has established The Lodge, a covered space on Fraternity Mall with a coffee and snack bar where students can gather for conversation, games and other activities.
Upon resuming courses following spring break April 5, students will be required to attend classes virtually for one week while participating in regularly scheduled COVID testing. In-person programming and facilities also will be limited during this “virtual week.” That means April 12, is the earliest date for any in-person classes; students should check with their instructors for specific information.
Additionally, students and employees are expected to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance after returning from spring break, including reducing nonessential activities for seven to 10 days after travel.
Students in UW residence halls will be allowed to remain through the end of the semester. Those choosing to stay on campus following spring break will be assessed additional housing and dining fees.
More information about UW’s COVID-19 response can be found at www.uwyo.edu/campus-return, which is being updated as information becomes available. Those with questions about testing and other COVID-19 issues may call (307) 766-COVD (2683) or email COVID19@uwyo.edu.