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Katherine Frank: A community update on Stout's fall plans

Katherine Frank: A community update on Stout's fall plans

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As the UW-Stout community looks forward to welcoming our students back to campus, I am writing to update the greater Menomonie community and the Chippewa Valley on our fall plans.

Fall semester will certainly look and function differently than it has in the past; however, this does not diminish the excitement we feel at the start of every new academic year. We are grateful that students are returning to campus, and we are grateful for the community’s support of their success.

A critical piece of bringing our students back safely will be our communication and collaboration with the community.

This includes regular meetings with city and county representatives, the Menomonie Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Menomonie, the Greater Menomonie Development Corporation, and others.

I also participate in weekly meetings of the Dunn County Community Recovery Team focused on the pandemic recovery efforts. The meetings are an opportunity to provide updates on the university’s plans, answer questions and receive feedback.

The Menomonie community is a second home for our students where they learn at school, work in the community and visit local businesses.

We recognize that bringing back thousands of students to the Menomonie community will raise some unique concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we also have heard from many of our stakeholders that it is important that we do so.

We understand both positions, and as a polytechnic university dedicated to student success through a combination of applied and career-focused learning and essential collaborative partnerships, we are committed to providing our students with a quality education within a safe environment.

The health and safety of our students, employees and the public have been our top priority throughout our planning for the comprehensive return to campus.

Among the many new protocols will be daily symptom monitoring; required safety training for employees; and the required use of face masks for students, employees and visitors. Signage and plexiglass barriers are being installed throughout campus to help promote social distancing and to remind individuals of safety requirements.

Our campus is adhering to the safety guidelines recently passed by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, which are aligned with CDC and Public Health recommendations.

Our students’ living and learning experiences also will look different in the fall. Changes to normal operations include an extended move-in process, reduced density in our residence halls, and adjustments to our dining operations.

We have identified self-isolation and self-quarantine spaces for students and have made significant adjustments to our classrooms, laboratories and other facilities to allow for social distancing. We have also established extensive cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

As we near the start of fall semester on Sept. 9, we will continue to prioritize our communication to and collaboration with the Menomonie community.

This includes a virtual Town Hall meeting at 4 p.m. Aug. 4, organized by the Menomonie Chamber of Commerce and other groups that will include myself; Mayor Randy Knaack; Bruce Barker, president of the Chippewa Valley Technical College; a representative of the Menomonie school district; Police Chief Eric Atkinson; and county Public Health Director KT Gallagher.

While the pandemic has significantly impacted my first several months as chancellor, both my husband, Joe Dvorsky, and I are grateful to be a part of this community and have appreciated the outreach and support we have received.

Thank you for your continued support and for helping to welcome our students back to Menomonie in September.

Katherine Frank is chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

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