RIVER FALLS — The spring semester is underway at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with some pandemic-related changes and optimism for an in-person graduation ceremony in May.

“We are hopeful and cautiously optimistic that we’ll return to a more traditional semester,” Interim Chancellor Connie Foster said in a recent message to students and employees. “Our positivity rates remain impressively low and students have demonstrated a sincere commitment to adhering to health and safety protocols. That has made a tremendous difference.”

Here’s what students can expect in the weeks ahead:

1. No spring break this year

A brutal cold spell may have students dreaming of a warm getaway, but there will be no time off from classes this year for spring break. The school joined other UW System campuses and schools around the country in cancelling spring break for 2021; instead, the semester will end April 30 — a week earlier than normal.

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2. Mandatory testing continues

Students and staff coming to campus must get tested for COVID-19, a policy put in place in the fall semester after buildings were shut down temporarily due to increasing disease activity. For the spring semester, testing is required:

  • weekly for students living in the dorms, and
  • every other week for students living off-campus as well as for staff.

Additionally, UW-River Falls has partnered with the city of River Falls to continue a free community COVID-19 testing site, now located at Hoffman Park. Tests are free for anyone over age 5. Pre-registration is required with same-day appointments usually available at http://www.doineedacovid19test.com.

3. In-person commencement is a possibility

School administration announced this week it was hopeful about having some form of in-person graduation ceremony in May, though if it happens and how large it would be depends on the pandemic situation. Spring and fall semesters in 2020 had virtual ceremonies.

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The spring semester will see expanded opportunities for students to connect virtually and in person, according to a news release.

“I am very proud of our Falcon family and the great effort I am seeing for safe in-person instruction, recreation, athletics and social engagement,” Foster said. “However, we know COVID remains a threat so we must remain diligent in our precautions.”