With public health experts saying the COVID-19 pandemic will continue into the next calendar year, the University of Wyoming is taking steps to continue delivering as much of an on-campus experience as possible in the spring 2021 semester.
Much as it has during the current fall semester, the university plans to offer a mix of in-person, hybrid and online classes in the spring semester. And current plans call for a continuation of measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19, including a rigorous testing program; requirements for face protection and physical distancing; and limits on gatherings.
“Our team has put significant effort into planning for the coming spring semester, just as we did before the fall. As the pandemic is rapidly evolving, much could change between now and January but, at this point, it appears that the spring semester will look very much like the current fall semester,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “I wish we could be more definitive in telling our students what to expect. But we feel it’s important to lay out a general plan for the spring now, recognizing that we must be prepared to adjust quickly to new developments, as has been the case this fall.”
The pandemic has caused the university to adjust the spring semester schedule, with classes starting Jan. 25, a week later than had been planned. Additionally, to help minimize the risk of viral transmission that would be caused by students leaving campus and then returning, there will be no spring break. To help compensate, there will be no classes on Presidents Day, Feb. 15.
“We recognize that, from a mental well-being standpoint, a three-day weekend isn’t the same as a weeklong spring break,” Interim Provost Anne Alexander says. “However, it appears likely that the pandemic situation in the spring will be similar to the present. Like many other universities across the country, we believe this schedule change is a prudent move to help preserve our on-campus experience.”
While close to 40 percent of UW courses currently are slated to be delivered fully online in the spring — up from the historical figure of 15 percent — about 60 percent are planned to include in-person components. Students registering for the spring semester will find the different course modalities outlined as they proceed through the registration process, which begins Wednesday, Oct. 28.
UW is now requiring all students who spend time on campus to be tested for COVID-19 twice per week, and employees on campus who aren’t able to maintain physical distance are being tested once per week. While the exact testing regimen has not been finalized for the spring, the university remains committed to testing, tracing and quarantine/isolation to limit the spread of the virus.
“We all hope that a vaccine will become available soon and that the pandemic will subside, but we must prepare to at least start the spring semester under circumstances that are similar to the present,” Seidel says. “We hope that providing this general outline now will help our students and prospective students make decisions, recognizing that the situation remains very fluid and that things could change before Jan. 25.”
During Phase 4 of the fall semester, scheduled Nov. 23-Dec. 11, all UW courses and final exams will be conducted online. Students will leave the residence halls, except for those granted exceptions. Campus buildings will shift to restricted access, and the surveillance testing program will continue for those remaining on campus.
UW’s updated academic calendar may be found at www.uwyo.edu/acadaffairs/_files/docs/academic-calendar.pdf.