NORTON — Wheaton College will be bringing students back to campus for full-time, in-person classes in the fall — but they will have to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus first.
The school is hosting an on-campus vaccination clinic Tuesday and other clinics will be scheduled in the fall, the college announced on its official blog. Faculty and staff members are “strongly encouraged” to get the vaccine but the blog did not say they would be required to.
The school said it did not plan to continue with the hybrid class model it adopted during the pandemic. However, “For students who may not be able to make it to campus due to travel or health-related reasons, the college will help explore alternative academic arrangements,” Wheaton said.
Requests for religious and other exemptions will be handled on a case-by-case basis. The school’s academic calendar will remain unchanged for the upcoming year.
The school said it anticipated continuing some testing for COVID-19 the fall, but at a “decreased testing frequency,” assuming most of the campus population has been fully vaccinated and noting that shots are now widely available.
And even vaccinated students will still be expected to wear masks indoors and at large outdoor gatherings and follow other social distancing guidelines.
“As this guidance is continually evolving, we will continue to monitor it and update our protocols as advised,” the school said.
Wheaton, with more than 1,700 undergraduate students, became one of the first colleges in Massachusetts to announce it was going to hold in-person classes last fall, and for a good part of the semester the virus situation was well under control.
However, by early November, the school saw a spike in positive tests for COVID-19 and switched to largely remote learning. Commuter students were barred from campus along with any staff not critical to coronavirus mitigation efforts.
On-campus events were put on hold along with athletic practices, and the fitness center was closed.
Wheaton will hold its 186th commencement ceremony on May 22.
Formal remarks, delivered virtually, will begin at 8:30 a.m., and will also be available on-demand after the event. Following the virtual program, the school will be hosting five separate ceremonies to award degrees and present students with their diplomas.
To comply with event capacity guidelines, social distancing requirements and to allow up to two guests per student to attend, degrees will be awarded by major throughout the day. All portions of the ceremony schedule will be available via a livestream webcast.