Costs to resume classes at UW set at just under $79 million


LARAMIE — University of Wyoming leaders determined to see on-campus activities resume in the fall announced Tuesday those plans would move forward with the caveat that state government provides the necessary funding.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the costs of resuming on-campus activities for the 2020-2021 academic year were estimated by the university to be just less than $79 million. University spokesman Chad Baldwin told the Boomerang Tuesday that there’s good reason to believe that figure would be adjusted. However, Baldwin said it was accurate to assume that UW would need significant funding in some amount to open campus in the fall.

The figures in some categories would likely have a downward trajectory, Baldwin said, but it is difficult to say at this stage. The discussions are taking place, he said.

The funding request sits with Gov. Mark Gordon rather than the state Legislature. Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman said it’s important to note, however, that the request involves the use of CARES Act dollars, subject to review to ensure federal compliance.

Acting President Neil Theobald said he believes students and the state are depending upon the university to return to some semblance of normalcy this fall while acknowledging the public health risks posed by doing so.

“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 said in a news release. “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 educational experience.”

The plan sees UW maintaining a 15-week semester with classes beginning Aug. 24 and ending Dec. 4. Students would not return to campus after Thanksgiving with all courses shifting to online instruction beginning Nov. 23. Final exams would take place through distance technologies. The two-day mid-semester break and three days before Thanksgiving would be converted to instructional days.

The spring 2021 semester would start Jan. 25, one week later than had been planned, and spring break would be eliminated.

The university is accepting public comment on the plan, which could be adjusted before it is presented to the UW Board of Trustees during its regular teleconference meeting June 10.

“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 said.

The plan is designed so that faculty members and academic departments can develop a combination of in-person and online instruction, with classrooms scheduled to provide for social distancing.

The plan stipulates a goal of 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.

Employees and students would be required to conduct daily temperature and symptom checks via self-reporting through a phone app that will be made available by the university.

While in communal spaces on campus, students and employees would be required to wear face coverings provided by the university, comply with social distancing guidelines and limit gatherings.

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.

Theobald emphasized personal responsibility as a key for public health.

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