Update March 12, 3:38 p.m.: This story was updated to include clarification about when online classes will resume. Comments from SGA President Abt were also added.

Update March 13, 4:51 p.m.: This story was updated to reflect new information regarding athletic events, travel restrictions, and student employment. Current coronavirus cases in Wisconsin were added. Additionally, comments from Dean of Students Harry Anderson were also added.

Update March 18, 1:37 p.m.: This story was updated to reflect the continuance of “alternate delivery” until the end of the semester and information about residence halls and student services.

Update March 26, 10:21 a.m.: This story was updated to reflect commencement plans for the class of 2020 and building closures across the UWS campus.

Update April 3, 8:35 p.m.: This story was updated to reflect the announcement that all classes for summer 2020 would be moved to online.

In an email from Chancellor Reneé Wachter on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 11, the University of Wisconsin-Superior announced sweeping changes due to the COVID-19 virus.

“It’s important to reiterate that our campus is safe and that there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our region. However, COVID-19 is spreading rapidly elsewhere,” said Wachter. As of this writing, there are no cases currently in Douglas County, however, there are 19 confirmed cases in Wisconsin.

After examining the actions taken by fellow UW institutions and institutions nationwide, the University Emergency Response Team, which consists of the members of the Chancellor’s Staff, Lindsey Dahlberg, the Environmental Health & Safety Director, Salisa Hochstetler, the Assistant Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Cory Kempf, the Director of Human Resources, and Harry Anderson, the Dean of Students, announced the following changes to campus:

All classes, events, and programs will be held as scheduled for the rest of this week, through Saturday, March 14. 

Spring break will be extended by one week, taking place March 16-29. The end of the school year will not be impacted by this extra week of spring break. As of this point in time, commencement will continue as planned. “I will strongly encourage that the University finds ways to recognize students’ achievement,” said Anderson. In an email from Chancellor Wachter on March 23 it was announced that the University would not be holding an in-person commencement ceremony for the class of 2020. On March 26, Chancellor Wachter announced that instead of a virtual commencement ceremony, the Unversity would hold an in=person winter commencement ceremony on Dec. 19. Students are also invited to wait and walk at the spring 2021 commencement if it is more convienent for them. Wachter said the decision to hold commencement at the conclusion of the fall 2020 semester was due to the uncertainty surrounding the virus.

On-campus classes will begin in an “alternate delivery mode” on Monday, March 30.  Online classes are excluded from change and will carry on as scheduled after the original Spring Break period from March 16-22. Students who have questions about classes that were originally scheduled online should contact their instructors first. Additional questions can be directed towards the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at cetl@uwsuper.edu.

The University announced on March 18 that classes will continue in an alternate mode from March 30 until the end of the semester, including final exams. As plans are completed, students will receive more information. The University also announced that all employees will begin transitioning towards minimized on-campus staffing, with most employees telecommuting. This model will continue until further notice by the administration. On April 3, the University announced that all courses taking place in the summer 2020 semester would be held online. This decision was made to maintain the health and safety of the UW-Superior campus community. As of this writing, the University expects the fall 2020 semester to proceed as planned.

When discussing the factors that played into the decision to extend the period of alternate delivery, Wachter identified three key points. “Our commitment to protect the health and well-being of our students and employees…Our commitment to providing a coherent and high-quality academic experience for our students…Our commitment to our student successfully completing their courses in spring 2020 and graduating.”

The Emergency Response Team will continue to assess the situation between now and then and will provide an update to students, staff, and faculty about when they can expect to return to campus by April 8. The team will provide an update on a possible extension of alternate classes with at least five days’ notice. One scenario in which school would not continue would be if Douglas County were to tell the University to close things down. Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in Wisconsin on Thursday, March 12 and Douglas County and the City of Superior declared a state of emergency on Monday, March 16.

If the situation continues to rapidly evolve, the University may make a decision before April 8. “We would communicate that out as quickly as possible. Check your email over spring break, whether you are staying here, traveling, or going home. This will be the main form of communication,” said Anderson. “If it becomes an emergency, we will make sure students are alerted through the SAFE Alert system that we have.”

The University advises that students remain away from campus during the extended break. Per Gov. Tony Evers’s “Safe at Home” order, effective March 25, the University has made changes to building operations. From March 25 until April 24, the following buildings are closed to the public: Erlanson, Barstow and Swenson Halls, the Holden Fine and Applied Arts Center, the Marcovich Wellness Center, Wessman Arena and the Jim Dan Hill Library. Additionally, the Yellowjacket Union will only be open for access to grab-and-go meals and mail pickup during the following times daily: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Currently, the university has not looked at expanding the campus food pantry. As the situation continues to change, the university will reevaluate. Additionally, Chartwells will continue providing food service to students over the break period, something they have not traditionally done. Hours of operation can be found here.

Campus operations will remain uninterrupted, and student employees will be able to continue working. The campus is considered a safe area at this time, and the Emergency Response Team will continue to monitor the situation. Student employees will be able to work 40 hours during the original period of spring break, transitioning to a 25 hour work week for domestic students and a 20 hour work week for international students the following week through the end of the semester. Despite the furthering of alternate delivery modes, many student support services will be available. A complete list of contact methods can be found here.

Regarding travel, the University will cancel travel to all CDC Level 3 Health Risk nations for COVID-19. This list currently includes China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea, however, the list may be updated as the situation changes. More information can be found here. Non-essential university-sponsored travel outside Wisconsin and the Twin Ports region (including student organizations) is canceled until at least April 8.

Due to the seriousness of this outbreak, students are being encouraged to reconsider personal travel during spring break. There is a possibility of a higher risk of infection, significant delays returning home, incurred unexpected personal expenses, and/or the requirement to self-isolate and potentially self-quarantine. Self-isolation is highly recommended for travelers returning to the region from U.S. states where the CDC has determined that sustained community transmission is occurring or countries at a CDC level 3 travel advisory for COVID-19. This information will continue to change rapidly as the situation evolves.

UW-Superior is advising students who have opted to travel away from Superior for spring break to consider whether or not they need to return to Superior, or if they can continue the semester from their permanent residence. Those who have traveled to California, Illinois, New York, or Washington, traveled through airports in these states, resides with someone who has done so, or has returned from a Level 3 CDC designated country since Monday, March 16 must self-isolate for 14 days before returning to campus.

“As we engage in social distancing and self-isolation, make sure you’re tending to your emotional health and well-being. Call or FaceTime your friends and loved ones. Go for a solo walk or run outside. In time, we will all look back on this moment in history and hopefully recognize our growth from this transformative expereince,” said Anderson.

Student Government Association President Zack Abt was thankful for the contact between the Dean of Students office and the student body. “We are trying to help students as much as possible understand what is going on. We would love to hear more feedback from students on the concerns they have moving forward in the semester. Please feel free to contact our email at senate@uwsuper.edu with any concerns.” Abt also wanted to emphasize that UWS is and has been a safe place for students to be.

“I know there are a ton of other questions out there for students, and I want to be able to answer them all; it’s just that the capacity this week is non-existent. We’re really trying to work really hard and really fast in the best interest of students,” said Anderson. Anderson also added that students who have questions should turn to the University’s COVID-19 website, submit questions to the Yellowjacket Union front desk, or email the Dean of Students Office. “It’s not that anybody is trying to not answer questions. Answers are changing so fast right now. It’s literally changing meeting-to-meeting for me right now. It all depends on what information is out there, what we know, and what guidance exists.”

“Thank you for your support, patience and flexibility as plans are implemented. These changes can be stressful, but I have confidence that we will adapt,” said Wachter. “As I’ve said many times, we are small but mighty. I continue to have confidence in the mightiness of all of you.”

This situation is constantly and rapidly evolving. More information can be found at uwsuper.edu/coronavirus. A list of all messages broadcast by the University can be found here. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.