Western making more room for larger first-year class

A former Western University upper-year student apartment complex will become a residence for first-year students to deal with a surge in enrolment and potential COVID-19 complications.

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Western University is converting an upper-year student apartment complex into a residence for first-year students to deal with a surge in enrolment and potential COVID-19 complications.

Lambton Hall will house nearly 300 first-year students once the switch is complete.

“Our decision to convert Lambton . . . is driven by the academic enrolment, which is going to be growing by 300 or so,” said Chris Alleyne, associate vice-president of housing.

“Secondly, while we make plans to return to face-to-face instruction this fall, there may still be COVID protocols that may require capacity limits in buildings. It adds some additional flexibility if we find ourselves next fall having to de-densify again.”

Every first-year student is guaranteed a place in Western’s residences, Alleyne said.

The building next to Saugeen-Maitland Hall on Western Road will undergo renovations this summer to convert each apartment into a two-person suite, each with two bedrooms, a shared bathroom, living room and kitchen. Each suite will be fully furnished.

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“It’s going to be very similar to our apartment-style residences,” Alleyne said. “The only change is there will be two single-bedroom apartments. Most of our suite-style buildings are four bedrooms.

“Lambton Hall will have all of the same amenities as all other residences have, but it does not have a dining hall.”

Students who purchase meal plans can dine at Saugeen-Maitland, he said.

The renovated residence will have a front desk, floor lounges, laundry facilities and rooms for workouts, studying and music practice.

The residence, which will be home to 280 students, will establish a residence council and recruit dons and sophs, just like the nine other first-year residences at Western.

Western opened its residences at 70 per cent capacity last September to accommodate social distancing measures. It has 3,200 students living at its nine residences. Normally the university has 5,300 students living on campus.

Western and so far two out of three of its affiliated schools say they intend to return to regular in-person classes this fall at their London campuses.

“We expect to return to face-to-face instruction, and more of the on-campus experiences we all love, this coming September,” Western president Alan Shepard said in a recent online update.

Residence officials say they are not ruling out social distancing this fall and spreading out students living in residences, even if students go back to the classroom in-person.

“We are still waiting on the uncertainty of how the variants will play out, combined with vaccine distribution. We are certainly hopeful and we are planning for face-to-face instruction,” Alleyne said.

Students living in Lambton this year are being offered housing at Ausable, Beaver or Bayfield halls, as well as units on Platts Lane.

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