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WUWM's Emily Files reports on education in southeastern Wisconsin.

Coronavirus: Many Wisconsin Colleges Suspend In-Person Classes

An outside view of Bascom Hall on the campus of the University of Wisconsin on Oct. 12, 2013 in Madison, Wisc.

Updated Friday at 11:14 a.m. CT

On Wednesday, Wisconsin health officials announced the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state has jumped from three to six.

Colleges are taking unprecedented steps to minimize the coronavirus risk. UW-Madison will suspend in-person classes after spring break and move instruction online for at least three weeks.

Most other UW campuses are following suit. UW-Milwaukee has extended its spring break by a week to give professors time to adjust their classes to an online format. After the break, UWM classes will take place remotely until at least April 10. A UWM Foundation employee was tested for COVID-19, but we learned Thursday that the results were negative.

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Experts say social distancing is one of the best ways to prevent coronavirus infection. That is, keeping people from congregating in large groups, such as college classrooms.

UW-Madison Health Services Director Jake Baggott said that is why the school is halting face-to-face instruction beginning March 23 — after spring break. 

“The best thing that we can all do right now is to minimize our exposure to larger groups,” Baggott said at a Wednesday news conference. “That is what underlies the action the university is taking at this time.”

WUWM's Emily Files debriefs the developments of Wisconsin colleges canceling in-person instruction over COVID-19 concerns with Lake Effect's Audrey Nowakowski. This interview aired on Lake Effect March 13.

The university is asking students who live in dorms to stay away from residence halls after spring break if they are able. UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank says students who don’t have a permanent home that is safe to return to, like international students, can stay in the dorms.

“We will continue to keep the residence halls open,” Blank said Wednesday. “But dealing with a residence hall with 10% occupancy is a very different situation from a disease control standpoint than a residence hall with 100% occupancy.”

UW-Madison educational psychology professor Ed Hubbard said in an interview with WUWM that suspending in-person classes will inevitably disrupt student learning and faculty research. But he thinks the university made the right call for the collective good.

"Hopefully, given the number of students that are here and given the impact that the university has on the state, it will decrease the rate of infection for everybody in the state," Hubbard said. "I think this is one the key things — that we have to think of this as a shared problem. It's all of our responsibility to try and protect everyone’s health."

A host of other UW campuses and private colleges are also taking their instruction online following upcoming spring breaks. See below for information.

UWM is extending its spring break by an additional week, and suspending in-person instruction between March 30 and April 10. Chancellor Mark Mone says UWM will continue to evaluate whether it is safe to resume regular classes after that. 

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Alverno College
Alverno is canceling classes between March 16 and March 20. The college says this will give professors time to move class delivery online, if needed. A decision will be made early next week about whether to resume face-to-face instruction. 

Beloit College
Beloit is extending its spring break by a week, until March 22. It will then deliver classes remotely during the week of March 23-27. The school says some classes may resume in-person on March 30. 

Cardinal Stritch University
Stritch is suspending in-person instruction from March 16-31. Classes will be delivered online during that time period. Stritch had an earlier spring break compared to other area colleges. Three students who traveled to Washington state during the break are self-quarantined after possible coronavirus exposure. 

Carroll University
Carroll is extending spring break through March 20 but has not made a decision about moving instruction delivery online. 

Carthage College
Carthage is extending its spring break for an extra week and switching to remote instruction from March 23-April 9 at minimum. 

Concordia University Wisconsin
CUW will suspend in-person instruction from March 16-April 13 at minimum. All classes, including labs, will be delivered online. The university is telling students who don't need to stay on-campus to not return to dorms after spring break.

UW-Eau Claire
UW-Eau Claire is continuing in-person instruction but is suspending its attendance policies to encourage students who feel sick to stay home. The university also told students that they should prepare for instruction to move online "if it becomes necessary."

Edgewood College
The private college in Madison will move classes "fully online" starting March 23 and tentatively resume regular instruction April 6, at the earliest. 

UW-Green Bay
The university announced Wednesday that it's moving instruction to "alternative delivery methods" beginning March 23 for one week and may extend based on the coronavirus risk.

UW-La Crosse 
UW-La Crosse is canceling a week of classes after spring break, and shifting classes online beginning March 29 until at least April 10.

Marquette University
Marquette is suspending in-person classes through April 10 and moving instruction online. Students who live in residence halls are asked not to return before April 10. Marquette is canceling on-campus university-sponsored events with more than 50 attendees.

Milwaukee Area Technical College
MATC is suspending in-person instruction for the week of March 16 and then switching to remote class delivery from March 23-April 13. 

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design
MIAD is extending its spring break by one week, to March 22. Classes will resume through online delivery on March 23 and will remain online until further notice. 

Milwaukee School of Engineering
MSOE announced Thursday that two students are being tested for the coronavirus after experiencing symptoms. The school is suspending in-person classes from March 13-20 and picking up instruction online March 23-April 9.

Mount Mary Unviersity
Mount Mary's spring break is March 16-20, and there are no in-person classes. Professors and administrators are using this time to prepare to move class delivery online, if needed. A spokesperson said a decision will be made next week about whether to resume in-person classes.

UW-Oshkosh has not yet called off in-person instruction. But the university is preparing professors to move courses online, and is asking students leaving for spring break to bring their "essential belongings, academic materials, laptops and medications" home in case instruction moves to remote delivery.

Parkside is beginning spring break a week early, on March 16. Classes resume on March 30 using online and other alternative delivery methods.

UW-River Falls
The school is extending its spring break to run two weeks, from March 16-29. Classes will resume March 30, with "alternative instruction."

UW-Stevens Point
The university is extending spring break by a week, so it's now March 14-29. Beginning March 30, it will shift in-person classes to "alternative delivery methods."

UW-Stout is suspending face-to-face classes between March 23 and April 5. 

UW-Superior is extending spring break by a week, so spring break now runs March 16-29. On-campus classes will begin in an "alternate delivery mode" on March 30 until at least April 13.

The university sent a memo to students asking them to take laptops and coursework home during spring break in case a decision to use alternative instruction is made.

Wisconsin Lutheran College
WLC is extending spring break by one week, through March 22. The decision to deliver classes online or in-person will be made by March 17.

Editor's note: This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Emily is an editor and project leader for WUWM.
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