Western University kicks off pandemic-adjusted residence move-in

A socially distanced move-in takes place at Western University's Essex Hall in September 2020. Andrew Graham / Global News

There was no shortage of nervous energy or masks on Thursday as parents and guardians dropped off new Western University students for the first day of residence move-ins.

About 3,500 students will be moved into on-campus housing over the next five days in a move-in schedule that’s been stretched out due to the pandemic.

While the threat of COVID-19 looms, Western’s associate vice-president of housing and ancillary services Chris Alleyne said they’ve been able to keep coronavirus concerns at bay.

“Our parents have been actually thrilled with some of the response that we’ve been planning for our move-in process,” Alleyne said.

That planning includes asking students to bring no more than two guests to help them with their move, having all visitors answer self-assessment questions and ensuring everyone is masked and washing their hands.

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Once students are moved in, residences will operate at only 70 per cent capacity in order to support physical distancing.

Incoming first-year student Mitchell Wong said he has concerns about COVID-19, but didn’t want to miss out on the social experience that comes with living in residence.

Wong said he finds comfort in the health precautions that are being enforced on campus.

“I heard there was on-site testing, so I feel that’s definitely really helpful, especially when I want to go back (home). I can just get a test and then make sure I don’t have anything I bring back,” Wong said.

Incoming first-year student Mitchell Wong spent his Thursday moving into his new home at Essex Hall. Andrew Graham / Global News

Mel Williams said she was apprehensive about her son Ronin going away for his first year of engineering at Western.

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“I am really concerned. We’ve been really careful over the last six months and I hope my son continues to be careful, even though he’s here,” Williams said.

Despite her concerns, Williams said it wasn’t her decision to make, adding that she instead wanted to support her son’s wishes.

“We live in Toronto, so we’re close enough that if we have to come and rescue him, we will.”

Incoming first-year student Rory Osborne, left, and his mother Andrea Brkovich. Andrew Graham / Global News

Less concerned was Andrea Brkovich, another parent who spent their Thursday dropping off a new student at Western.

“I think there’s always concerns when you’re in a building with lots of kids, but the precautions that we’ve seen so far really are exemplary and I feel really safe,” said Brkovich.

Her son, Rory Osborne, felt a similar reassurance ahead of his move into his new home at Essex Hall.

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“It’s a bunch of young students at a university. Everyone seems to be healthy, everyone’s young, so we’re not really the demographic that’s at risk for this virus,” said Osborne.

“I feel pretty good about it.”

Residence move-ins continue until Tuesday as London, Ont., welcomes back tens of thousands of students back into the city.

The influx has prompted residents in London’s Old North neighbourhood, which often serves as a temporary home to students living off-campus, to raise concerns about house parties and the potential spread of COVID-19.

Western has taken on an extensive health and safety strategy in order to curb any potential spread of the virus.

That includes the Take Care Western Commitment, a campaign that aims to educate students on how to navigate university life while following current health guidelines.

Click to play video: 'Queen’s University’s “Move In” is very different thanks to COVID-19'
Queen’s University’s “Move In” is very different thanks to COVID-19

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