School Grief in the Time of the Coronavirus

While on a charter bus with fifty other College of Wooster students, I received an email from Sarah Bolton, president of the College of Wooster, saying that the College, under advisement of the governor of Ohio, would be switching to online classes due to the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio. Complete pandemonium ensued on the bus, and our band director sent us a text message saying to “keep calm.” We were on our way to Richmond for our fourth band concert of a six day tour. It was March 10.

We performed that night, and then prior to our departure to Alexandria, VA the next morning, we were told that the College had decided to cancel the rest of our tour and we would be turning back to Wooster. 

On March 12, another email was sent by Sarah Bolton, detailing the College’s response to the coronavirus. Not only would online classes commence, so too were all students expected to move out of the dorms. Normal, in-person classes were not expected to resume until at least April 6. We had to vacate our rooms and bring all school-related materials with us by Thursday, March 19.

I understand the steps the College has taken. In fact, I think they are doing the best they can and even better than some institutions I have been reading about in this difficult situation. There was a meeting for students and administrators that I wrote an article about, and I’m going to quote from my article to you can see why I think this is the right thing for the College to be doing:

“‘The moment you need to act, it will seem ridiculous to do so,’ Bolton stated. ‘But] by the time more people start to become ill, it is too late to take those actions. That’s why governor is doing things that seem drastic.’”

While I can logically accept all the steps the College is taking and the guidance the governor has been issuing, I am still extremely upset. Actually, if I’m being honest, I can’t really coherently sum up what I am feeling right now. 

First, the extreme uncertainty is hard to deal with. Some schools, such as the University of Michigan, have transitioned to online classes for the rest of the semester, and commencement is canceled. 

I can’t help but think that the same thing will happen to Wooster. Already some senior year traditions have been canceled—though the school has promised they will try to make it up to us. For instance, to celebrate the turning in of our senior thesis, due the first day after spring break, there is a day called I.S. Monday. No senior attends their classes, and instead we celebrate all day. I was looking forward to going to brunch with my friends instead of attending my classes and then attending the school-wide parade that would have taken place that afternoon.

A few weeks after I.S. Monday is I.S. Symposium, in which all classes are canceled and seniors present on their research. I was planning on doing a reading from the novella I wrote and talking about my writing process. My parents are coming to town for the event. 

Other traditions include the ceremonial stealing of the Wooster brick, and of course, commencement. While I do not know if these events will be canceled, the unknown is hard to deal with. I don’t know if this is the last time I will see my friends in a school setting. I don’t know if I will get to perform in my last band concert. I don’t know if I will wear a kilt again. Maybe I’m being too negative, but these are the thoughts swirling through my head. 

My friend Sarah invited myself and another friend of ours, Neva, to come home with her. She lives about a three hour drive away from Wooster, near Ann Arbor, MI. So that’s my current plan.  I want to be close-ish to Wooster so if anything changes I can collect my belongings and pack up my room. Or if we do in fact go back to normal, I can go back to school with relative ease. 

There is virtual meeting on Monday, March 16 with Wooster administration in which we are expected to get more information. In the meantime, I am happy to be with my friends during this period, and I’m extremely thankful for Sarah and her family for hosting me. 

Before I sign off, I would like to say that I’ve been extremely uplifted by the self-care tips that people have been sharing in order to cope. 

For instance, you can watch live cams from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Thanks Laura for sharing that. 

NPR created a Spotify playlist of calm songs called the Isle of Calm. 

There are virtual museum tours that you can take advantage of. 

Hang in there, everyone.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. Thanks so much for this, Claire. I always appreciate your honesty in your reflection. I’ve been thinking a lot about you and other college seniors — this is sooo not the way anyone wanted this to be for you. I’m really bummed. I hope you and your classmates will be able to find joy even in this crazy time. We love you.

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