U.S. schools and colleges close because of coronavirus, affecting millions of students

Schools across the U.S. are closing due to the coronavirus.

Even before President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday responding to the outbreak, across the country, universities have responded in various degrees — from shifting to remote learning  to asking all their students to vacate campus housing and extending spring break.

“I guess it’s like a sense that it’s surreal,” Boston College junior Czar Alexei Sepe told Yahoo Finance. “We were kind of left in the dark with the university’s response to what they were they were going to do moving forward …. Finally, when the news came it kinda shocked us. Because we didn’t realize like the abruptness of this and the kind of how quick this would be.”

A Tufts University student Mbecomes overwhelmed while packing up his dorm room with his service dog, Matilda, at his side on March 12, 2020 in Somerville, MA. (Photo: by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Students at Boston College were asked to vacate the campus by Sunday. Harvard University delivered a similar announcement earlier in the week.

‘Going back home is tough’

According to a spreadsheet maintained by Bryan Alexander, an education technology specialist at Georgetown University, more than 200 higher education institutions have already responded to the crisis.

The map below — which is a sampling of all higher education institutions across the U.S., as of Thursday— demonstrates how campuses across the country have reacted.

(Graphic: David Foster)

Sepe also noted that the seniors were “distraught” having to say goodbye early. “It’s abrupt… they didn’t have to time to… say goodbye,” he added. “It’s devastating for them.” 

Colleges are quickly working to shift their classes online.

“We are supposed to stay home until April 13th,” a Seton Hall University student told Yahoo Finance. “And are required to do online classes until then.” 

The entire episode unfolded fast. “Word got around that the board was meeting to discuss this issue, so I heard it from a friend first,” she added. “And then the official school email was sent later in the day.” 

Was she sad about having to vacate the campus?

“Yes, extremely sad,” she responded. “Leaving all my friends at college and adjusting to online classes and going back home is tough. I’m a freshman and it’s hard to be giving up on my second semester as I am just beginning to enjoy it.” 

Three students prepare to pack as Harvard University announced it will close down their campus early this semester, asking students to vacate by March 15th over the Coronavirus, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Staff photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

The student added that she was worried about getting a refund. Room and board after all, constitutes more than 20% of overall college expenses for an undergraduate student, according to the College Board

“I took as much as I could back home in a suitcases but we all still left some belongings back in our dorms,” she added. “I really don’t think we’re going to get refunded all the extra expenses, but I really do hope so, especially with housing costs and meal swipes because it is expensive.” 

Others embraced online learning, trading jokes about how all institutions of higher education are essentially level now, in a way, because they’re all using the same technology:

Millions of K-12 students also affected

Meanwhile, school districts across the country have also shuttered, responding to the coronavirus.

As of March 13, at least 46,000 K-12 schools across the country have closed, Education Week reports. A full map can be found here. The closures affect at least 21 million students. 

The House has also passed sweeping legislation, responding to the coronavirus. In particular, lawmakers have also secured money to make sure food assistance programs, such as for children to qualify for free lunch at school, would not see major disruptions.

Aarthi Swaminathan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at 

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