WHITEWATER — The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater announced Friday that departments across both the Whitewater and Rock County campuses are planning for the return of students, faculty and staff for the fall 2020 semester.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, university leaders have actively assessed the ability to return UW-Whitewater to a modified normal. The intent is to provide learning and living experiences that are as safe as they can be given the challenges of the world in which everyone is operating.

“Our first priority has always been, and remains, providing for the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff,” said Chancellor Dwight C. Watson. “To provide safe environments for all members of our community, we will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines, along with those of the state and local health departments, the State of Wisconsin and the UW System.

“It is our intention to have students, faculty and staff return to both campuses in the fall. Exactly how that looks is still being established as we seek advice from faculty and staff on safety protocols, lowering classroom density, and self-protection. However, at this time, we plan to have our residence halls open, and teaching will resume in the classroom in modified and flexible ways.”

Watson said that much work has been done to assess the campus’ ability to return to a modified normal.

“We are confident we will be able provide learning and living experiences that are as safe as they can be given the challenges of the world in which we operate. Will this fall look like the fall of 2019? It will not. We know we will have to make modifications to put the health and safety of all first,” he said.

“We still have much work to do to plan for your arrival or return to our campuses. Our Emergency Operations Command team has done an outstanding job of developing initial plans for operation under these new conditions. I applaud and appreciate their hard work and effort. I will share details of those decisions and plans as they become available.”

As for employees in the short term, Watson said, those who are working remotely are being asked to continue to do so. Those employees who have continued to report to the campuses should also continue to do so. Divisions are working on plans to bring employees safely back to campus.

UW-Whitewater will hold a town hall meeting through Webex Events at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 9, to discuss this decision. In addition, a website is being created to serve as a central information hub on all aspects of the return to campus. Submit questions in advance to Nicole Caine at cainen@uww.edu by 5 p.m. Thursday, June 4.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives and it will alter nearly every aspect of our operations at UW-Whitewater,” Watson said. “Regardless of those changes, we remain an institution committed to its values and to its mission to serve our students. That commitment has not changed — nor will it change.”

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