UW-Madison releases plan for on campus fall classes

    UW-Madison's Bascom Hall
    UW-Madison's Bascom Hall (Phil Roeder | Flickr)

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison released its “Smart Restart” plan for welcoming students back to campus for the Fall 2020 semester. 

    The plan involves adjustments to on-campus housing and dining, in-person classes and a change to the academic calendar as the school attempts to bring students back for the first time since the university went virtual in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. 

    “The upheaval caused by COVID-19 has been hard on everyone, from students and their families to our faculty and staff,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement. “We want everything to return to normal, but as this memo indicates, things will be different in this coming year. I appreciate your commitment to our university community and to the behaviors that will help keep people healthy.” 

    The semester will begin as scheduled Sept. 2 with a mix of in-person and online classes through the Thanksgiving break. After Thanksgiving, classes on the remaining nine days of the semester will be virtual — including final exams. 

    Classes with fewer than 50 students will be held in larger classrooms to allow for social distancing. However, remote instruction will remain in place for large lectures with more than 100 students and for classes with more than 50.

    The average class size at UW-Madison is 31 students. 

    Students will not be required to attend class in person and masks will be required in all of the buildings on campus. The school is also increasing the number of classes held in the evenings and on Saturdays. 

    Tuition and fees will remain the same no matter how the class is being offered. 

    Testing for the virus will be available to everybody on campus and a surveillance testing program will monitor up to 2,000 people on campus each week to allow school officials to monitor the level of virus spread. 

    The school is partnering with Public Health Madison and Dane County to employ contact tracers. Students with the virus will be put into quarantine in dedicated rooms with private bathrooms. 

    New procedures for cleaning campus facilities are being created and all students will be provided with supplies to clean desks and chairs before using them. 

    The university plans to open all of its residence halls in the fall but will mostly limit dorm rooms to two students to reduce density. Residence hall students and staff will be regularly tested and guests will not be allowed. 

    Dining hall access will be limited to residents and staff of that building only. 

    For university employees, a mix of staggered hours and limited schedules will be decided by each department and employees will also follow guidelines around masks and sanitizing workspaces. 

    Department leadership and staff will decide which classes will be offered online and in-person. 

    The school has not yet decided how it will handle student life activities such as clubs, recreation and athletics. The Big Ten athletic conference has not yet made a determination about holding fall sports.

    Henry Redman
    Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.