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University of Wisconsin-Madison may eliminate spring break

Associated Press

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FILE - Two men wrestle each other as spring break revelers look on during a contest on the beach, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Pompano Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin-Madison is considering eliminating spring break next semester to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The university’s Faculty Senate was expected to vote on revising the 2021 spring calendar at a meeting Monday.

Dropping spring break would discourage students and staff from traveling long distances and bringing the virus that causes COVID-19 back to campus, officials said.

Members of the University Committee were receptive when university leaders floating the idea last month.

“I realize the slog of of going through a full 15 week semester with no break would be challenging, but given the vagaries of the pandemic, particularly in cold weather when people are indoors and the like. … I’m enthusiastically supportive,” said Provost John Karl Scholz.

The proposal has classes starting on Jan. 25, a week later than currently scheduled. Spring break would be eliminated, but classes would not be held Saturday, March 27, which is the beginning of Passover; Friday, April 2, which is Good Friday; or Saturday, April 3, the day before Easter. Classes would end April 30, the same day as the current calendar.

The virus has been running rampant on Wisconsin college campuses. UW-Madison and UW-La Crosse have suspended in-person undergraduate instruction for two weeks, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

According to data from UW-Madison, 2,138 students and 29 employees have been infected since Aug. 6. Three-hundred students have been referred to the university’s Office of Student Conduct -and Community Standards for violation of housing or other policies related to COVID-19, UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith Mcglone said. Eight students have been suspended; four others are being considered for suspension, she said.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank defended the decision to open the campus this fall during a video conference with reporters, saying students were coming back to off-campus housing regardless and they learn better in person. She said she would make the same decision again.

“Even if we went all online, the majority of our students would be here,” she said. “This issue isn’t going to resolve itself by telling everyone to go home. This is their home.”

The deadline for a full tuition refund expired Friday, but Blank said the university is considering extending that window.

State health officials on Sunday confirmed 1,582 new cases of the coronavirus, for a total of 89,185 positive tests. One new death was reported, increasing the number of fatalities from the disease to 1,210.

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