By Jonah Beleckis jbeleckis@gazettextra.com

UW-Whitewater announced Monday it will in the fall require masks and social distancing, request daily online health screenings and offer “limited” COVID-19 testing for symptomatic students.

Chancellor Dwight Watson wrote in his Monday announcement that the university—while prioritizing student and employee health—also has a goal to “maximize in-person instruction” in the fall.

“We know that in bringing students, faculty and staff together there is inherent risk, but we are doing everything possible to mitigate that risk and to ensure the best learning environment possible,” the announcement states.

Classes will have a variety of styles, but the chancellor said all classes will move online to finish out the semester after Nov. 20. That’s about a week before Thanksgiving, when many on campus travel elsewhere for the holidays.

UW-W will provide housing for students, too. After Nov. 20, residence halls and dining services will remain for students who want to stay on campus.

However, there will be no housing and dining refunds or proration of costs for the fall semester, which will start as planned Sept. 2, according to the announcement.

To promote health and safety, the university said it is:

  • Requiring social distancing—keeping a minimum of 6 feet between one person and another—in all indoor and outdoor parts of both campuses in Whitewater and Rock County.
  • Requiring face coverings that cover the nose and mouth—which have been shown to reduce the coronavirus’ spread—in public areas, shared spaces in all buildings, hallways, classrooms, bathrooms, university vehicles and outside when social distancing cannot take place. An exemption process will be available for those who cannot wear masks.
  • Providing hand sanitizer in all classrooms, department offices and in other areas of all buildings. Classrooms also will have cleaning materials and disposable face coverings.
  • Providing COVID-19 testing to symptomatic students through University Health and Counseling Services. Other tests are available at area clinics and hospitals, and the university’s announcement “strongly encouraged” people to use those resources.
  • Requesting a daily online health screening for anyone on campus or coming to campus, which could persuade those who are feeling symptoms to stay home and also assist with contact tracing, if needed.

“We have outlined a number of preventative measures that we are asking each of you to commit to for the sake of your own health and safety and those around you,” the chancellor wrote. “We ask that you pledge to be a community member in good standing and to willingly take part in these actions.”

The university will offer “flexibility” for employees, especially those who are high-risk, to work remotely, according to the announcement.

Students will be told about the format of their classes before the school year starts, but options include face-to-face instruction, online classes and remote learning that is done during class time. Students also might be allowed to choose their preferred option or have a blend of options in some cases.

The pandemic came at a time when the university was also dealing with having to make millions of dollars in budget cuts. The pandemic has cost the university even more, officials have said.

“We will monitor the impact of decisions on our financial viability,” the Monday announcement states.

The university on Thursday, July 9, will hold three town hall meetings at 11 a.m. (for faculty and staff), 1 p.m. (for residents in Whitewater and Rock County) and 3 p.m. (for students and their families).

Questions can be emailed to cainen@uww .edu by Friday, July 3. More details are available at uww.edu/warhawks-return.

“We will not be the same campus we were in the fall of 2019,” Watson wrote. “Yet, we are committed to providing students with excellent instruction, support and services.”

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