Queen's University returned to its pre-pandemic format in moving first year students into 17 different residence buildings.
Over 4,500 students moved into their new home on Saturday, staggered in four different two hour time blocks between 8am and 4pm.
Over the past two years residence occupancy has been restricted to 90% and the move in period was stretched out over four days, but for the upcoming year the school has once again squeezed it into one day.
Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney said it's one of the best days of the year at Queen's and she's happy to see it return, as it really kicks off a week where students have opportunities to start connecting with one another in a variety of spaces.
"Students make connections in different places," Tierney said.
"We know students make those connections at different times and the key is that everybody feels that sense of belonging."
The massive move in effort requires 1,000 hands on deck--over 800 of those being student volunteers--directing traffic, helping to unload vehicles, and answering questions of new students and their families.
The move in also requires coordination with partners like the City of Kingston, Kingston Police, Kingston Accommodation Partners, and the Downtown Business Improvement Association having significant traffic implications in the University District during the course of the day.
Ann Tierney said staff and volunteers got right back into the swing of normal move in day, and have it down to a "well oiled machine".
She said its success requires a long term planning process that ramps up in the spring, and needs assistance from the community to run smoothly.
"It's a lot of coordination, the city really helps us as you can see with some of the one way streets," Tierney said.
"And then lots of letting the community know what's happening, the signage because, you know, it's not just move in here but a lot of students returning to the community in the same weekend."
This year, the routes were arranged in a way that Kingston Public Transit routes did not have to be diverted to accommodate the traffic.
King's Street, Johnson Street, University Street and the majority of main roadways in the University District saw heavy delays throughout most of Saturday.
Queen's Executive Director of Housing and Ancillary Services Leah Wales said while the traffic can be frustrating for residents, typically the surrounding community is patient with the process.
"We understand it's a bit disruptive to the neighbours but we do find that the neighbours are very patient," Wales said.
"And we work very closely with our colleagues in the city as we plan the routes."
With most COVID restrictions being dropped, Queen's is looking to allow students to return to a previous sense of normalcy that's been absent for two years and began trying to push the sense of community right away.
Emily Yeung, a fourth year student and President and CEO for the Residence Society, says that this week she and her peers are trying to bring move in day back to what it was like when she experienced it herself as a first year.
"That is our biggest goal this year is to continue engaging our students," Yeung said.
"Provide those resources and allow them to thrive wherever they live in academics and also in their own personal endeavours."
Yeung also said she's excited to move students into the new Albert Street residence, becoming the first batch of students to ever live there.
The 334 bed residence was tendered in 2020 and has been built on schedule for a budget 55.7 million dollars.
John Witjes, Queen's Associate Vice Principal - Facilities, said the building was made with a strong focus on sustainability and accessibility, and integrated two heritage homes into the build of the new structure.
The University is seeking a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification for the building, and has incorporated efficiencies like low flow fixtures, LED lighting and higher efficiency windows and boilers.
Witjes says as Queen's continues to try to reduce its carbon footprint, all new builds will vie for that certification.
"Queen's is targeting carbon neutrality by 2040," Witjes said.
"So when we build new buildings of this size we're targeting LEED gold as a standard."
While the new building adds 334 beds to the Queen's housing ecosystem, 90 beds will be unavailable as the John Deutsch University Centre undergoes renovations expected to be completed in summer 2024.
Queen's students start classes on Tuesday.
Story by Owen Fullerton, YGK News, for the Local Journalism Initiative