UW-La Crosse students and leaders feeling optimistic about upcoming academic year

UWL began the 2020 fall semester in-person, but all students were sheltered in place about a week later due to a campus-wide outbreak

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – College students are moving back to La Crosse to start their school year.

At the same time, COVID cases continue to go up.

La Crosse’s population is going to increase by about 10-thousand more with UWL students moving in.

A larger population means there’s a higher likelihood of virus spread in the community.

But students and leaders say they think the 2021 academic year will be better than 2020.

UW-La Crosse began last year’s fall semester learning in-person.

But it only took about a week for cases to get out of control, and force the campus to temporarily shelter in place.

“The two weeks was rough. A lot of people went home,” UWL student Cade Hannack said.

Hannack, now a sophomore, says he is feeling good heading back to school.

“More in-person classes this year,” he said. “I like in-person classes a lot better than online. So, I’m very optimistic about this year.”

Masking is required inside campus buildings.

“I’m not going to throw a hissy fit because I have to put a piece of plastic on my face,” Hannack said.

But as of now, Chancellor Joe Gow says students do not have to socially distance while in class.

“We’re hoping everybody is vaccinated, and then you don’t have to have a measure like that,” Gow said.

UWL already reached its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of its students, and is now offering incentives for those who got the shot.

“We’re delighted that our students are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated,” Gow said.

“It would be excellent if we could get 100 percent participation,” Mayo Clinic Health System’s Dr. Erin Morcomb said. “I don’t know if that will ever be the case that we get that much, but the higher percentage that we can get, the better off the community will be.”

Hannack says he doesn’t agree with the campus offering incentives, despite himself being fully vaccinated.

“I feel like that could ostracize other kids who don’t have it, and they could be looked down upon,” he said.

But as long as the students stay in school, they have a much better year ahead to look forward to.

UWL posted on its Facebook page that the university will be providing new vaccine incentives once the campus reaches 75 percent and 80 percent.

It is unclear what those incentives will be.

There is a walk-in vaccination clinic for everyone free of charge on the second floor of the Cartwright Center on the UWL campus.

It is open every day from 12 to 4 p.m. until September 10.

All La Crosse campuses are encouraging — but not requiring — vaccinations.