Should we or shouldn’t we? That was the question my wife and I asked ourselves all summer as our 21-year-old daughter was sitting in our house in quarantine asking us if she could go back to college for her senior year. Making this decision even more complicated was that our daughter is in the nursing school at her out-of-state university, and her curriculum this year would mostly involve clinical work to gain practical experience in treating patients in local hospitals. Despite the College of Nursing’s assurances that student nurses would not be assigned to designated COVID floors in the hospital, it is impossible to think that she will not be exposed at some point to patients who have the virus that is killing people by the thousands all across the country and is currently surging in southern states like the one in the state in which our daughter’s school is located.
While our particular situation with our daughter is unique, we know many parents of college-aged children who are facing the same decision as we were, which is whether we should let our kids go back to school where we cannot control their environment. My daughter has her own apartment at school with two roommates, each of whom have their own room which makes social distancing possible. However, what about kids who will be freshmen and will be required to live in a dormitory with a new roommate they have not met and share facilities with other kids in an open setting which is the hallmark of the college experience (i.e. eating in a cafeteria, sharing bathroom facilities, etc.)?
In every case, parents and kids need to be open and honest with each other about their concerns and take precautions to make their situation at school as safe as possible. Parents should also research their child’s college or university as to their preparedness to keep their kids safe and healthy while on campus. Much like other workplaces, the CDC has issued guidelines for colleges and universities to follow, and parents should be making sure they understand how their child’s school of choice is planning to adhere to these guidelines. There are also some additional practical steps that parents and kids should consider which are summarized in this recent article from USA Today.
In our case (much to our daughter’s delight), we agreed to let her finish off her college experience on campus with her friends and colleagues. After driving her cross-country (thankfully, for us, for the last time), we are now ourselves in quarantine after our trip to three of the states that our state and local authorities have deemed to be at-risk states requiring us to socially isolate from others for 14 days. I guess that is just one more way that we decided to support our daughter’s decision to go back to school that we happily agreed to do for her.
I wish all of you in similar situations the best of luck in making this important decision for your kids.
David Solomon is the chair of Levenfeld Pearlstein’s Corporate Group, and head of the firm's Employee Stock Ownership Plan practice. Stay up-to-date on issues facing businesses and individuals today – including how to handle evolving issues impacted by COVID-19 - with LP’s Daily 3.