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With opening day a month away and student move-in days even closer, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is busy preparing its three campuses for fall semester.

Even before students were sent home in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and operations and classes transitioned to the remote and virtual world, UWO leaders began looking at what it would take to safely reopen.

Dozens of faculty, staff and students from UWO’s three campuses developed a set of recommendations to guide this process, and hundreds have spent the past several weeks and will continue that work this month to turn those recommendations into actions.

“Students have asked us to do all we can to create the safest college experience on our campuses, and we are answering that call,” said UWO Chancellor Andrew Leavitt. “Faculty, staff and student leaders have been collaborating all summer with health and public safety officials to make sure we follow sound science, current data and best practices to confidently welcome everyone back in September.

“The Titans Return plan guides us, grants us the flexibility we need if conditions change and, most importantly, encourages us to individually and collectively promote a culture of selflessness and safety,” Leavitt continued.

Key points to UWO’s Titans Return plan include:

  • Masks will be required on our campuses. When you enter a building—whether you are faculty, staff, student or visitor—you must wear a mask. Masks are not required outdoors, but are encouraged if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • All students and staff will be provided with two masks, hand sanitizer and information to help them practice and promote safe behaviors.
  • A mix of classes will be offered; about two-thirds will be offered face-to-face, with the remainder offered online. Nearly all face-to-face classes will have an online option to provide flexibility for students.
  • Every classroom has been evaluated to determine its new capacity. Students will not be able to sit next to each other, but instead will maintain a safe distance.
  • Common spaces have been examined and furniture has been moved and marked to indicate where and how people may gather safely.
  • Signs alert campus communities and visitors to the mask requirements, how to maintain a safe distance from others and how to gather and meet safely.
  • An app will allow staff, students and visitors to assess their health before coming to campus. This also aligns with a Titan Safety Promise that asks everyone to work together to help create a safe and healthy environment.
  • Buildings and classrooms will be sanitized; sanitizer and cleaning products will be available around campus.
  • In the coming weeks the Emergency Operations Center will hold several tabletop exercises to evaluate plans, identify any gaps and make adjustments.

“Titans Return is a flexible plan that enables UWO to adapt to changing conditions presented by COVID-19,” said UWO Police Chief Kurt Leibold. Leibold also leads the groups charged with developing the University’s safe return protocols.

“We know that basing our plans only on what we know today is not enough,” Leibold said. “We need to plan for every scenario and create alert levels that guide us through the challenges of potential positive cases on our campuses.”

UW Oshkosh has consistently and continually communicated its plans to its stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students, parents and community. UWO leaders want to be transparent and available for questions and concerns. Several forums have been held for campus communities and three town halls are scheduled specifically for students and parents in August.

The Titans Return website houses information and resources related to these efforts. The site is updated frequently and can help answer common questions about UWO’s plans.