Some Private Colleges and Universities Delay Start of Spring Semester Classes, Requiring Vaccinations Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Some private colleges and universities in Wisconsin are delaying the start of spring semester classes, requiring negative COVID-19 tests or vaccinations and reminders for students and employees amid a rapid wave of new COVID-19 infections. At the same time, the University of Wisconsin system said students “will be back on time and as usual” for classes starting this month.

As the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports a record number of new COVID-19 cases daily, state colleges and universities are discussing what changes, if any, may be needed before thousands of students converge on the campus.

Edgewood College announced on Wednesday that it was delaying the start of the spring 2022 semester for in-person undergraduate courses by one week until January 24.

Edgewood vice president for student development Heather Harbach said administrators are seeing the delay as a way to implement a “community-wide quarantine.” She said the students had traveled, spent time with loved ones who may or may not have the virus.

“And so, we thought in giving the students notice now, it gives them a few weeks to really bond, to limit their exposure to others, to really focus on managing their symptoms or monitoring symptoms.” , said Harbach. “And in some ways maybe we can ask them to handle a wave, if that were to happen, somewhere they were away from campus or somewhere they could comfortably quarantine and then come back to the semester with a wave, maybe on a downward slope. ”

On January 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened the recommended times for isolation after exposure or infection to COVID-19. People who test positive should isolate themselves from others for five days if they are asymptomatic or symptoms go away, the agency said.

Edgewood College does not mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, but Harbach said they are highly recommended and students must report their vaccination status. She said the student body had an 86 percent vaccination rate during the fall semester. Students are required to wear face masks in classrooms.

Wisconsin’s largest private college, Marquette University, also released an announcement Wednesday that the school would delay the start of undergraduate, graduate and law school courses by a week, with a new start date. January 24.

“Additional information on how the class time for these four days will be composed will be shared in the coming days,” the campus statement read. “There are no plans to cancel Spring Break or Easter Break.”

Marquette is also asking students to prove that they received boosters by February 1. Neither vaccinations nor boosters are required for university employees. An indoor face mask requirement has also been extended across campus.

Matt Rentmeester is Vice President of Admissions and Marketing at Bellin College in Green Bay. He said the campus would start requiring vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff before the spring semester begins on January 17. Rentmeester said face masks will continue to be mandatory indoors until further notice.

Rentmeester said the college is lucky the semester begins later in the month as administrators will have more time to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in the community and on campus.

“We are already seeing this, acutely, with some of our staff and faculty who have come out with positive tests, and we hope our students will come back healthy,” Rentmeester said. “But in reality, we already know that the impact could be a bit deeper than in the fall semester, which we have done relatively successfully.”

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There are no plans to move online classes to Bellin College, he said.

“It is very difficult to teach healthcare education remotely,” Rentmeester said. “You have to be at the bedside, you have to work in the labs and eventually go to your clinics in the hospitals that are in desperate need of our graduates. “

Beloit College will continue its vaccination mandate which came into effect before the start of the fall 2021 semester. The college also requires a negative COVID-19 test before students or employees return to campus on January 24.

Lawrence University announced on December 23 that “distance school and extracurricular activities” during the winter term will be extended until the second week of classes, which begins on January 10. The move of students into the residences has been postponed to January 9. and all employees other than those in direct student support roles are encouraged to work remotely.

Ripon College Acting President Andrea Young told campus on Wednesday he would require students and employees to provide a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus for the spring semester starting Jan. 18 . mixing phase “from January 16 to 20 during which events other than face-to-face lessons and track and field training or games will be postponed or held virtually.

St. Norbert College in De Pere will begin classes as scheduled on January 24, but students and employees must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before coming to campus.

The UW system has not announced any significant changes for the spring semester at its 13 universities or their side campuses. A tweets thread Jan. 4, said, “Due to our successful mitigation measures, UW system students will return on time and as usual to campuses and classrooms.”

The discussion thread indicates that UW System was “the first to provide large-scale testing for our students and staff” and touted a scholarship lottery to encourage students on campuses to achieve at least an immunization rate of 70%. All UW campuses except UW-Platteville have met or exceeded the 70% threshold.

For a limited time at the end of the fall 2021 semester, it emerged that some campuses in the UW system were moving towards requiring employee vaccination in order to comply with an executive order issued by President Joe Biden.

Ultimately, UW-Madison was the only public school to announce tenure for all employees, including students. This was put on hold due to a federal lawsuit blocking Biden’s executive order. Yet UW-Madison’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that nearly 96% of employees have been vaccinated.

In recent days, the campus dashboard has also shown a noticeable increase in the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive. The results of January 4 show that 21.5% of the tests came back positive.

A spokesperson for UW-Madison said there was no change in campus operations at this time and administrators were closely monitoring the current increase in Wisconsin cases while consulting with experts. in public health.

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