Wheaton College provides free apartments for police, firefighters under self-quarantine
Wheaton College is providing apartments for city police and firefighters to self-quarantine from their families during the coronavirus pandemic.
The college signed an agreement with the city to offer free housing to Wheaton employees responding to the crisis as public health officials brace for an expected coronavirus surge. The DuPage County Health Department has so far reported 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wheaton.
The college is making available 58 vacated units in the off-campus Terrace Apartments to police, firefighters and paramedics.
"Since our founding, Wheaton College has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the City of Wheaton," school President Philip Ryken said in an announcement of the agreement Thursday. "We are eager to support our first responders as they work selflessly to save lives in this community."
The apartment complex on College Avenue is three blocks from campus. Students began moving out of housing March 14, as the Christian liberal arts school switched to remote learning during the statewide stay-at-home order. The college has 108 students remaining on campus, primarily international students.
Terrace Apartments are not contiguous to other residences. The distance between the apartments and the main campus will ensure protection for students and personnel, officials said.
The first units will be available early next week, college spokeswoman LaTonya Taylor said via email.
The initial agreement is set through mid-June but would be extended if needed, city spokeswoman Susan Bishel said.
"Our first responders are taking extensive safety precautions, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), social distancing and thorough cleaning measures, but they could potentially be exposed to members of the community with COVID-19 in responding to calls in the community," Bishel wrote in an email.
Wheaton Mayor Phil Suess thanked the college for its contribution.
"Wheaton's firefighters, paramedics and police officers are on the front lines of this pandemic when they respond to calls for assistance in the community," Suess said in a joint release with the school. "Even though our first responders are taking many precautions to ensure their safety, to have a place where they can safely self-isolate from their loved ones is a relief for many."