Dear Wheaton Community,
It’s that time! Our early-arriving students have begun to arrive on campus this week and staff and faculty are busy preparing for the arrival of all of our students over the next two weeks. There is definitely a sense of excitement in the air here in Norton as we make these final preparations.
While many staff members have been on campus throughout the pandemic, all departments began phasing in their return on August 9. Many faculty have returned to their offices as well as they prepare for in-person learning in two short weeks. Student leaders and volunteers assisting with Move-in, Fall Orientation and Welcome Weekend began arriving this week. And student-athletes preparing for their fall season have started to arrive for pre-season practices.
Though modified in format to keep our community safe, there will be a number of in-person events to begin the semester. We’ll be holding our traditional welcome ceremony on the Dimple for the first-year class and new students on Friday, August 27, at 5 PM. A send-off reception for parents will be held in the President’s Garden right after that. We’ll be hosting another welcome event for the second-year class on Monday, August 30, at 10 AM. We’ve planned a whole slate of “re-orientation” events for this class since for many it will be their first time on campus and for all it will be a very different campus experience than that of last year. Tuesday, August 31, is the first day of fall semester classes and we’ll host our traditional Opening Convocation at 5 PM that day. Seniors will be able to wear their caps and gowns for the first time and the event will be on the Dimple rather than indoors to help keep the community safe. Campus community members should mark your calendar now for these events and hopefully plan on attending.
Our approach to a successful, safe and healthy start to the fall semester relies on four fundamental pillars: required vaccinations, weekly PCR testing, indoor masking, and limiting the size of indoor social gatherings. These protocols will help to ensure that we can continue to deliver an in-person student experience in the face of COVID-19 and the Delta variant in particular. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will vigilantly monitor the campus situation and closely track the evolving state and federal guidance. We all need to continue to be flexible and adaptable as conditions are likely to change and, as a result, protocols may be modified. The health and safety of everyone in our community continues to be our top priority.
The reported vaccination rate for the student body is approaching 90%. We are grateful for the many students who already submitted their proof of vaccination and we look forward to seeing this rate rise as the remaining few who need to report do so prior to move-in. The reported faculty and staff vaccination rate is currently above 70% and rising as we approach the August 31 deadline for employees to submit their proof of vaccination or exemption. This semester, we will continue to transparently report cumulative test results on our COVID-19 Dashboard, which will also house our vaccination and quarantine and isolation housing information when that comes into use.
It has been great to see the campus come back to life over the last couple of weeks and I can’t wait to greet so many others who will be joining us in the days ahead, some even coming to campus for the very first time! Our entire team of faculty and staff has been hard at work preparing for everyone to be back on campus and for the beginning of the semester. I am so thankful to everyone for their hard work, especially in light of the challenges we are facing. I was even able to get Roary, our mascot, to help me out with some of the preparations – I hope this glimpse of some of our work together will bring a smile to your face.
To our new and returning students, please be reminded that we are all here to help and support you through this transition. Do not hesitate at all to reach out to any department, office, faculty or staff member with any questions or comments.
I look forward to seeing each of you soon!