In response to input from its constituents, the University of Wyoming has made a number of adjustments to its plan to restart on-campus educational experiences this fall.
The plan still calls for students to return to campus for a 15-week semester, with a mixture of in-person and online courses beginning Aug. 24 and ending Dec. 4 — and students not returning to campus after Thanksgiving. But a few adjustments have been made in response to constituent and Wyoming Department of Health input, with the aim of reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission among the campus community.
The changes include:
— Not requiring students and employees to self-isolate or quarantine before returning to campus, as long as they are tested (with negative results) for COVID-19 within 7-10 days of their return. The university is arranging for saliva tests to be mailed individually to students and employees before the start of the semester; details on that testing would be provided later this summer. Online COVID-19 training also would be developed for students and employees to take before the semester begins.
— Consideration of testing at intervals during the fall semester of all students and employees, not just those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, depending upon test availability and cost.
— Clarification on the requirement of all employees and students to conduct daily temperature and symptom checks, self-reporting through a phone and computer app that will be made available by the university.
— Possible introduction of a second, optional tracking app that would allow users to be notified when they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. No identities would be disclosed.
— More detail on the requirement for students and employees to wear face coverings, which will be provided by the university, when in communal spaces on campus.
— More detail on the process for faculty members and academic departments to develop the best mix of in-person and online instruction, with classrooms scheduled to provide for social distancing. Every student would be offered a combination of online and face-to-face learning to allow for greatest flexibility to provide students the in-person experience.
— More detail on compliance measures, including discipline tied to the Student Code of Conduct and employee handbook.
— No final decisions until later this year on the spring 2021 semester, including the start date and whether there will be a spring break.
Students, faculty, staff and other constituents submitted close to 1,000 comments on the draft plan last week.
“We appreciate the input we received from so many people who care so deeply about the university, its students and employees,” Acting President Neil Theobald says. “We have done our best to listen to the feedback and make appropriate adjustments, recognizing that it is impossible to please everyone with this plan.”
The plan is based on the work of over 100 faculty members, staff, students and administrators in five working groups that have focused on topics including scheduling and instructional delivery; research; social structure; university operations; personnel policies; and community/state interaction.
The plan is designed to be adaptable to allow for up-to-date information and changing conditions. If it’s approved by the Board of Trustees, implementation will require the university to secure federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act through the state of Wyoming.