The first day of classes are always hectic for any university. For Western Carolina, that may be taken to a new level this year. That’s because classes start on the day of the solar eclipse.
BPR’s Davin Eldridge reports…
With thousands of incoming freshmen making their move onto campus, often with nervous parents in tow, colleges typically begin planning the logistics of getting them settled months in advance. But this year will be a little different for Western Carolina University. Located in Jackson County, Western’s campus is set to fall within the path of totality for this year’s eclipse, meaning it will get completely dark that afternoon
“Our initial concerns were that it was on the twenty first, on the first day of class, and that’s always a chaotic time as you might expect,” says Melissa Wargo, Western’s Chief of Staff. “Nobody really knows where to park on the first days.”
According to Wargo, the school’s various departments began coordinating with one another for the event last spring, including campus police and parking, faculty with experience in astronomy, and numerous student body organizations.
“We will be having a viewing party for faculty, staff and students for the campus community only on the day of the eclipse, and we will not have classes between 1 and 3 p.m., so the students can certainly experience this once in a lifetime event," she said. "We will also allow staff who can step away from their desk to go outside and view the eclipse as well.”
While there will be a number of eclipse viewing parties elsewhere throughout Jackson county, Wargo stresses that Western’s will strictly be for faculty, staff and students. Additionally, there will be no parking available to the general public.
“We hope that folks on campus who can participate in the viewing party will come to the plaza to do that," Wargo continued. "We are also communicating with faculty and staff about commute times, and to be prepared for extra traffic on the roads. Our university PD will manage traffic.”
Wargo says Western began communicating with students and their families about the eclipse months ago, and included information about expected traffic delays and a shortage of lodging. Additionally, the need for extra planning on that days stems from the school anticipating record enrollment for the second straight year. Classes also start for the fall semester at UNC-Asheville on eclipse day, and the school will be holding viewing parties and other events that afternoon. But the campus there is not in the path of totality like Western’s.