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Increased testing planned for all students on campus for spring semester

October 21, 2020 By Doug Erickson

Beginning with the start of the spring semester, UW–Madison will expand its systematic testing program to ensure that all students who live on campus, attend classes or utilize campus spaces will be tested twice each week. Regular testing will be required for employees working on campus as well. 

This represents a significant expansion over the current program, where weekly testing occurs for students living in residence halls and for workers in Housing and food service. Other students and staff are tested only if they choose to make an appointment at a campus testing site, or if they participate in surveillance testing.   

“I am pleased that we will be able to expand our testing in January,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “This will help us identify any students or staff who are ill much more quickly.  

As the university demonstrated this fall, quick detection of cases through testing, combined with isolation and quarantine efforts, rigorous contact tracing, and adherence to public health measures such as mask wearing, physical distancing and regular hand washing, is critical to keeping transmission rates of the virus low. 

The university expects to share more information as soon as details are finalized 

Instructional/Academic Updates 

Campus officials also announced plans to continue with a hybrid model of instruction for the spring 2021 semester, offering a mix of in-person and virtual classes.  

I continue to feel strongly that face-to-face instruction, with stringent safety protocols, provides an invaluable learning opportunity for students and instructors who choose that option,” says Provost Karl Scholz. Many students prefer and many programs rely on aspects of instruction that are most effectively provided in-person and sometimes cannot be replicated remotely. As we have noted, the university tracks every positive virus case among our employees, and there is no evidence of spread from students to staff in classrooms or labs. 

Courses with 50 or more students will remain virtual. Smaller courses with an in-person component will be held in classrooms large enough to allow for physical distancing. The university will continue to require face coverings in all indoor and outdoor spaces for students, employees and visitors. 

Following an extended winter break, the spring semester will begin on Jan. 25, nearly one week later than usual. To reduce the potential of outbreaks related to travel, there will be no spring break in 2021. 

The semester will end as previously scheduled, with the final day of classes on April 30 and exams ending on May 7. Commencement ceremonies are scheduled for May 7 and 8. No decision has been made on whether they will be in-person or virtual. 

The full schedule of classes for Spring 2021 is targeted to be available in early December. More detailed information about the enrollment schedule will be emailed to students in early November.  

Campus Housing Updates 

All university residence halls will reopen for the spring semester on January 23. Additional information regarding spring move-in will be published in December. Winter break housing options will be available in the residence halls for those who need to stay on campus during the recess. 

For students who chose to study from home for the fall semester but now may be seeking an on-campus experience for the spring semester, there will be openings available in the residence halls. Details will be available later this year. 

Comprehensive COVID testing will be conducted for all students returning to live in the residence halls for second semester. 

Separate isolation spaces will continue to be available for Housing students who test positive for COVID-19 and quarantine spaces will be offered for residents who have been notified they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. Access to Housing dining markets will again be limited to only Housing residents and Housing staff. 

For the latest updates and information, please see the UW–Madison COVID-19 Response website.