It comes as no surprise that the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has impacted many students’ Spring Break plans.
Many international students, especially those from China (which has been the nation most affected by the novel coronavirus outbreak) have had to unexpectedly rearrange their Spring Break plans due to the outbreak. Some students have been able to arrange lodging with host families, although many hosts will be out of town, so it’s not an option for everyone to stay with a local family. It can be difficult to book a hotel room at the last minute and can become expensive if they last the full duration of spring break. The same applies for hastily-arranged flights.
Some students and their families are going to great lengths to be able to see each other during Spring Break. When interviewed, Steven Sun ‘22, said that he had arranged a complicated plan so that he could see his family. First, his family, who currently lives in China, would travel to another location outside of the US, since they cannot travel directly. Then, they would fly to Chicago after staying in a hotel in another country after a certain number of days.
The predicament of Spring Break lodgings remains unanswered for several students who are unsure about where they will go.
During an all-boarder meeting held at 9:30 on March 2 after the unexpected cancellation of all LFA spring break trips that afternoon, it was announced that some of the dorms will be open during spring break, with the exception of MacIntosh Cottage. Residents of closed dorms will be put in either Field Dormitory or Ferry Hall in makeshift rooms, depending on what remains open. It is assumed that Atlass and Warner will be open due to their larger populations, but residents of Atlass staying over break will have to sleep in Warner’s common rooms for three days of the break because of electric work being done on Atlass. The electric work will cause Atlass to lose power for three days.
The option to stay at LFA over break will not be free, and the cost is reportedly going to be consistent with what other boarding schools are charging for similar programs. The dining hall will be open with very limited hours and options. Not many activities are expected to take place, because faculty will be on their own vacations. Times for sign-outs may also be limited. However, when there was a call for faculty volunteers to step up and be on campus in order to provide a better experience for those students needing to remain at LFA, and the large offering of support will likley make Spring Break at LFA more comfortable than it could have been if administration had been stuck scrounging for assistance.
“If you stay here for Spring Break, expect it to be very quiet.” said Jonathan Freeman, the Dean of Student Life, said at the meeting on March 2. In other words, it won’t be anything like a typical weekend schedule.
Students have been highly encouraged to spend Spring Break with local family and friends, with Freeman saying that not staying on campus would be the “more interesting option.”
The first LFA Spring Break trip to be canceled was the trip to Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia. An email announcing the cancellation was sent out on February 25th, three weeks before the trip was scheduled to depart.
The email from Matt Nink, one of the trip’s coordinators, and it stated, “It is unclear how conditions in East Asia may change in the coming weeks, and given that uncertainty we are not comfortable sending students or teachers to that part of the world at this time.”
Around 20 students were planning on going on the trip, but the increasing number of cases in the areas they planned to visit were very concerning. The CDC even issued a Level Two Travel Health Notice for Japan – “Exercise Increased Caution”- and said that the US should prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience caused by this decision as well as for the loss of an international learning experience,” said Nink in an email on behalf of the Stuart Center.
COVID-19 has not only affected travel to East Asia. On March second, the Head of School Jose De Jesús sent an email out to the LFA Community announcing the cancellation of all curricular and cocurricular Spring Break trips. The email came as a shock to students, since many of the trips were going to places far from the worst of the epidemic, such as London, Kenya, and Dubai.
De Jesus’ email said, “As of March 2, 2020, we have decided to cancel all curricular and co-curricular spring break trips. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all schools cancel travel programs abroad. We regret the loss of these educational opportunities, but we believe that this decision is best at this time.”
The school is planning on reimbursing all payments made by students and families for cancelled trips.
The school is offering resources to help students rearrange their plans, and De Jesus wrote, “I urge you once again to bring forward any concerns or questions you might have. Please know that we are here to support you through this evolving situation.”