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My Son's College is Closing Because of Coronavirus. Now What?

Marlene Kern Fischer

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It was inevitable. One by one my friends have been telling me that their kids’ colleges were closing because of the coronavirus pandemic and that they would be finishing out the year by taking their classes online.

Today we got the email from my son’s school calling it.

My son goes to school in the Boston area. Luckily we live in Westchester County, New York which is less than a three-hour drive away. Right now the plan is to go get him by next weekend. We don’t want to stay in a hotel so we will do the round trip in a day.

A year ago I was lamenting the fact that I would soon have an empty nest. Now I’m lamenting the fact that my son’s freshman year is being cut short.

He’s far from alone. In another week or two there may be no universities still open. Undergraduates and graduate students are scrambling to make arrangements to get home. Some have to return to other countries. Many students who were studying abroad had to come home. For seniors, commencement is up in the air.

I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that my son will be home for more than five months. Other than taking his classes online and doing schoolwork, how will he spend his time?

He will want to hang out with friends. Do I allow that? He and his camp buddies love to go to a local chicken wings place. Do I want him in a restaurant? Do I want him at their houses? How much online video gaming can he play?

He won’t be able to get a part-time job. No one is hiring.

He’s 18 and has a lot of energy. Being cooped up is going to be tough on all of us.

It’s not even spring yet and spring has been pretty much been cancelled. And I don’t mean the weather; I mean everything else. My husband and I were invited to a bar-mitzvah that was supposed to take place later this month; the bar-mitzvah boy will recite his torah portion from home and the party will be postponed. Business trips are being called off.

My oldest son is supposed to be getting married on July 2 in Washington, D.C. and my nephew is getting married Memorial Day weekend in California. Will those things still happen? I mean, I know they will get married, but when and how now seems up in the air.

I'm trying to look on the bright side of things. Is there one?

Perhaps our kids will learn resilience. For many young people, this may be the first time their plans get changed in such a dramatic fashion. I feel disappointed for them.

Quite frankly, the news is terrifying. Hearing about Italy and other countries where the virus is already more widespread makes me certain that the schools are making the right call. My almost daughter and son have been working from home; I’m thinking anyone who is able to telecommute should be allowed to do so.

I want to reassure my children, to tell them all will be fine. I want to be reassured myself.

All we can do is deal with the present and not look too far into the future.

In the meantime, I told my son to get some garbage bags to throw his clothes into and start packing.

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Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother, food shopper extraordinaire, author and college essay editor. She has published two books: Trapped in My Sports Bra and Other Harrowing Tales and Gained a Daughter but Nearly Lost My Mind: How I Planned a Backyard Wedding During a Pandemic. Find her on Facebook at Thoughts From Aisle 4.
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