If you have college students like mine, you’re probably figuring out how to move them home. If they’re seniors, they’re probably wondering about whether they’ll have graduation, how they’ll get job interviews, even how they could get started on a career. High school students aren’t able to visit colleges before making a decision, and are probably wondering whether they’ll have prom, graduation, and so on. I’m like all the rest of you: I have questions, not answers.
My kids are in two very different situations. My son is home on spring break right now. His school is on semesters so they’re in the middle of the term. The school decided late yesterday to move to online instruction “wherever possible” with the goal of resuming in-person classes in early April. (We anticipate another round of messages in a couple of weeks with instructions about how to retrieve belongings from residence halls when the decision is made not to return to campus at all.) But residence halls, food services, etc. will remain open and students can continue to live on campus. Our challenges with his situation: He only planned to be here for the week, so several of his notebooks are still at school, not to mention all of his personal belongings. And given the “wherever possible” it appears that instructors have some discretion whether or not online instruction is possible. He’s still waiting for confirmation from two of his classes.
My daughter has final exams next week, after which the school will move the entire spring quarter online. They are requiring students to move out of residence halls or apply for an exception if they’re unable to go home. They’re sticking with their current academic timeline with spring break coming up after next week anyway. Her logistical challenge is figuring out how to pack her things up for either storage or coming home, since right now boxes are to college students what toilet paper is to Costco shoppers.
Fortunately, both of their schools—like most American colleges and universities—have robust online learning management systems, so this isn’t too huge of a leap. For those who haven’t spent much time on college campuses lately, most lectures are videorecorded already and most course content is online through systems like Canvas and Google. And those and many other technologies mean continued access to professors and tutors even when students are not on campus.
We haven’t yet heard about cost adjustments for housing and meal plans that aren’t getting used, but reviewing the communications from the schools this week and seeing on the two schools’ parent’s pages on Facebook, it’s impossible not to realize what a massive and monumental undertaking this is for the schools. In my son’s case we’ve already paid for the semester; in my daughter’s we haven’t yet paid for the coming quarter, though, so I expect clarity at least on my daughter’s shortly.
Is it ideal? Of course not. But not much about this virus is ideal. Yesterday I was talking with a client who recently moved his wife, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s, to a memory care facility. This week the facility informed family members that they were stopping all visitors for the next four weeks. My client knows that if he doesn’t see his wife for four weeks, she won’t know who he is any more. There is real, and really bad, collateral trauma even for those who don’t ultimately contract the disease so anything we can do to slow its spread seems like our responsibility as decent human beings. If my kids come home and one of us gets COVID-19, the four of us in our house will probably get infected. If they stay at school and get it, there’s a reasonable likelihood that all 200-ish of their dormmates will get infected.
I keep trying to remind myself that life is a marathon, not a sprint. So I’m trying to switch my focus from what they’re missing to making sure my family and I are doing everything we can to make sure they, their friends and our community as a whole can stay in the race.