UW System eyes spring semester as pandemic progresses

From campus outbreaks to in-person courses this spring, the University of Wisconsin System has overcome challenges at the start of the school year.

As the fall semester wraps up, there are plans for a promising spring.

Quarantined on campus at one point, some UW System students had quite the start to the school year.

"We had to overcome some adversity," said Andrew Peterson, UW System Board of Regents president.

Andrew Peterson, UW System Board of Regents president

After altering behaviors, Peterson said he couldn't be happier with the performance schools had in the fall semester.

"Ultimately we were able to persevere, every single one of our campuses was able to deliver on-campus, in-person education experience this fall," Peterson said.

Peterson says that an overwhelming amount of college students and their parents want just that -- on-campus, in-person learning. And the UW system is now looking to have even more in-person classes come spring, continuing to monitor safety and cases of COVID-19.

"We’ve done 500,000 tests across Wisconsin these last six months, and we are doing it on our campuses where we have the physical assets in 13 regions across the state to deliver it," said Peterson. "We are testing our faculty and staff and students, but if you are a community member in Madison, Milwaukee or Eau Claire, you can get a test for free."

When students return to campus in January for the spring semester, schools will test upon arrival. Those living in campus residence halls will be tested twice a week. For those living off-campus, it will be once every other week.

Plans to increase testing in the spring come with developments with COVID-19 vaccines -- another effort to control the spread.

"We are having conversations with the federal government, the state about becoming a distribution hub for the vaccine as a durable vaccine becomes available in the spring," Peterson said.

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Peterson also said the UW System is making a budget request -- including a 4.5% salary increase for faculty over the next two years.

He said the talent offers high-quality education and the impact made during the pandemic goes beyond educational delivery.

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