May 1 Update on Fall 2021 Return to Campus Plans

For over a year, the Wheaton Community has adapted and adjusted as we have navigated through the challenges of COVID-19. As we wind down an academic year unlike any we have ever experienced before, we now turn our attention to preparing for the 2021-2022 academic year. We do that based on the expectation that widespread vaccinations will make it possible for us to return to an experience that more closely resembles the in-person learning and residential environment we all relish and remember from prior years. While guidance from state and federal officials continues to evolve, it does provide us with a foundation to plan now for what the fall will look like. As we have throughout the pandemic, we will continue to evaluate this guidance and our conditions on campus every single day to focus on creating a safe and healthy environment for all. Below is a brief summary of the current plans for different aspects of our experience.

  • Our fall semester will focus on face-to-face, in-person classes and academic experiences.
  • Students will have to be on campus to participate in their academic studies as we do not anticipate continuing the hybrid tutorial teaching model.
  • No changes are anticipated to the published 2021-2022 academic calendar.
  • For students to attend classes in the fall semester, vaccinations will be required.
  • As with other required vaccinations, waiver requests for religious and medical exemptions are available and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • We encourage all students to get vaccinated as soon as they are able. To assist with this, we are offering an on-campus vaccination clinic on Tuesday, May 4. Learn more about the vaccination clinic and visit the scheduling site to book an appointment and complete the registration process.
  • We will also schedule a vaccination clinic at the beginning of the next academic year to enable international students or others who cannot get a vaccination to meet the requirement.
  • We strongly encourage faculty and staff to get vaccinated as well.
Testing and Contact Tracing
  • We anticipate that some testing for COVID-19 will continue in the fall, but at a decreased testing frequency. We continue to work with the Massachusetts Higher Education Testing Group and the Broad Institute to develop testing protocols that will help ensure a safe campus. We will share more specific guidance on testing with our community as it becomes available.
  • The expected decreased testing cadence assumes that the vast majority of campus has been fully vaccinated. Alternative testing protocols may need to be explored if our community does not meet this vaccination threshold.
  • Quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing will continue for on-campus positive COVID-19 test results based on federal and state guidelines.
Masks and Social Distancing
  • Currently, it is expected that mask-wearing will continue indoors and for larger outdoor gatherings. As this guidance is continually evolving, we will continue to monitor it and update our protocols as advised.
  • While some social distancing requirements may still be in place, we expect that they will continue to be modified to enable larger capacities in indoor spaces such as classrooms, meeting spaces and our dining areas. These are likely to be dependent on our ability to have the vast majority of the campus vaccinated and we will adhere to the most current federal and state guidelines throughout.
Housing & Residential Life
  • We expect residence halls to be back to traditional capacity and rooms will revert back to their standard single, double, triple, and quad occupancy, based upon room size.
  • Limited on-campus quarantine and isolation housing will remain in place, although it will likely be a different location on campus.
Events, Clubs & Organizations
  • Based upon recent state guidance, capacity limits for gatherings will be lifted as of August 1. We will continue to adhere to any changes in state public health guidance in place at the start of the fall semester.
  • We expect clubs and organizations to be able to host in-person meetings and events, subject to any specific guidance at that time on crowd size, masking, social distancing or other related protocols.
  • Current plans anticipate a return to a full schedule for our various athletic and campus recreation programs, subject to state, federal and NCAA guidelines in place at that time.
Office Staffing
  • Administrative offices and departments will return to regular in-person staffing.
  • More specific information about the timetable for a return to regular staffing and any revised protocols, including addressing any need for alternative work arrangements, will be communicated in the coming weeks from the Return to Campus Task Force and our Human Resources office.

As you can see, our goal is to move toward an experience that more closely resembles what existed prior to COVID-19, subject to state, federal and other regulatory guidance that exists when we return to campus. While there are clearly more details and logistics to finalize throughout the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor state and federal regulations and will keep you updated via email and the Return to Campus website. As we have throughout this pandemic, we must remain flexible since protocols may always change as we seek to create the safest possible environment for all.