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Some students face housing uncertainty as Queen’s returns to in-person classes

On Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, Queen’s University confirmed that in-person activities would resume after Reading Week, beginning on on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, and that hybrid or online delivery would not be an option. As Queen’s prepares to transition back to in-person delivery of classes, some students are still unsure where they will live for the remaining two months of the semester. While many have stayed or will be returning to their rooms on campus, according to the university, a few hundred students have opted to withdraw from residence and are now having to find alternative short-term living spaces.

An empty Queen’s University campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2021. Photo by Daniel Tastard-Homer.

In mid-December, the university announced that most academic activities would be delivered remotely until the end of Reading Week. Students living in residence were encouraged, in a communication on Dec. 17, 2021 from Queen’s University Residences, to “remain in your home communities until your classes transition back to in-person delivery.” However, many students chose to live off-campus over winter break (many having already left ahead of the December 17 communication), and continue to do so, as classes are being delivered remotely. Now, those students need to decide where to live, and quickly — all while housing demands in Kingston remain at an all-time high.

Students who had previously been living in Queen’s residences were given the opportunity to fill out a “Return to Residence” form, which allowed them to choose between delaying their return to residence or withdrawing altogether. If a student chose to delay their return to residence and filled out the Return to Residence form by January 23, 2022, they were eligible to receive a partial adjustment of $340 per week, which includes both residence and meal plan fees, up until return to campus on Feb. 28. A complete withdrawal from residence would mean a total reimbursement for winter term residence fees. All adjustments had been processed prior to the January 31 winter fee deadline.

The Dec. 17 communication stated, “We appreciate these are significant changes, but the university has made these decisions to support the health and safety of the Queen’s and local communities, in response to rising cases of the Omicron variant and in consultation with local public health experts.”

Students have taken to posting on local online housing and community groups in hopes of finding short-term housing solutions. Some students appear to have assumed classes might not return to in-person at all, choosing to stay out of town for the majority of the semester, and now have to return to attend classes. With the help of considerate locals and other students, many have found last-minute sublets and accommodations. Still, others are expressing a dire need for new accommodations as the end of February draws closer.

Students who chose to withdraw from residence were asked to move all of their belongings out of their dorm by January 23 and to return their keys. They are able to apply to return to residence in March; however, rooms will only be granted “based on availability and applicable Public Health considerations at that time. If a room is offered at that time, it is unlikely to be [the student’s] current room and prorated residence fees will apply for the duration of [their] new stay,” according to the Queen’s residence website.

“As noted in the December 17 communication to students from Queen’s University Residences, students were encouraged to make the choice they felt was best for them, including the option of withdrawal from residence,” Queen’s media relations team communicated via email. “Over the past month, Queen’s has been responding to each person who had withdrawn and then reached out to indicate they wanted to return to residence on a case-by-case basis to confirm they would be able to return. Additional communication will also follow with other details, including cost and available rooms.”

Students living in residence have also seen changes to dining hall and common spaces. In a January 6 communication from Queen’s Residences, the university stated that dining halls would move to take-out only options for “at least 21 days” and that “masks must continue to be worn in all areas outside of your own room in residence. [Students] are strongly encouraged to wear double or triple-layered non-woven disposable masks instead of cloth masks.” The Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) was also closed for most of January, while virtual fitness programming remained available.

“We understand that the start of winter term may not be what you had envisioned,” the communication continued. “We are committed to helping you make meaningful connections, succeed in your academics, and make lasting and positive memories. We want to thank you for your resilience and continued commitment to keeping yourselves and our community healthy and safe. If you have questions about the contents of this email, please email [email protected] or join us on live chat.”

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