It’s come to my attention that I get more stressed than my kids do when it comes to back-to-school. There’s always a couple of weeks before I take that first day of school picture when my anxiety is a little heightened and I’m feeling sad that time is passing so quickly.
The last couple of years have been even worse with all the uncertainty of Covid and wondering what we should do to protect our children.
This gets even more complicated as we send our kids off to college. In years past, we’ve hoped they make good decisions because that can impact their futures. Now, we’re hoping they make good decisions because it could impact their lives and the lives of others.
But what if it’s the university that’s making dangerous decisions?
I have a student attending Belmont University in Nashville, TN this year as a junior. Like most parents who have had kids starting college these last couple of years, there have been a lot of ups and downs. She started out strong in the fall of 2019, came home for spring break in March of 2020…and then didn’t go back until January 2021.
There have been a lot of tears. A lot of unmet expectations. A lot of adjustments.
When Belmont University allowed students to go back in the fall of 2020, they handled the health crises beautifully.
- A dorm was set aside for students who had tested positive.
- Masks were required both indoors and out on campus.
- Students were not allowed to go into each other’s dorm rooms.
- When my daughter was sick and had to have a Covid test (which, thankfully, came back negative), the school brought food to her dorm room so she could quarantine until she got the results.
- She was able to get vaccinated even before I was because the school offered it.
So, imagine my surprise this year when I received their latest Covid policies:
- If you are vaccinated and experience a breakthrough infection, a plan for an off-campus isolation space for a minimum of 10 days. If you have experienced a close contact, as long as you have uploaded proof of your vaccination to Belmont’s Health Services portal, you will not need to quarantine but will be asked to monitor for symptoms.
- If you are NOT vaccinated and test positive for COVID-19, a plan for an off-campus isolation space for a minimum of 10 days. If you are NOT vaccinated OR have not uploaded your vaccination record to Health Services and experience a close contact, you will need to have a plan for an off-campus quarantine space for a minimum of 10 days.
On her second night in her dorm room, my daughter attended a dorm meeting. She was texting me because they had to put in writing what their “Covid plan” was going to be.
We live in Colorado. We have no family or friends in the area. Our choice will be either a hotel or an AirBnB.
Not only that, but it was announced at the meeting that if they test positive the university will take their dorm key away so they cannot come back until the quarantine period is finished.
Here are the issues with this policy:
- Belmont University has an out-of-state student population of 70% (Source). This means that possibly thousands of students could be unleashed in the Nashville area over the course of this year because they have no place else to go.
- I’m sure many students would hesitate to disclose a positive Covid test knowing they will basically be homeless for 10 days.
- If my daughter tests positive, that means her roommates have already been exposed. Instead of all staying together and quarantining, now three kids might possibly have to find outside accommodations.
- If a kid DOES have family or friends in the area, now they’re exposing another group to the virus.
- If the solution is to go to a hotel, now even more people have been exposed.
- If the student is from out of state and the parent has to fly in to take care of them, this could lead to more exposure because the parent has to go BACK at some point.
I have talked to many other friends who have college-age students around the country. In most cases, the school is offering “quarantine housing” or the student is able to quarantine in their dorm room. So far, I have yet to find another school that has the same “you get kicked off campus” policy.
And the part that I need to own as a parent is knowing that this was going to happen before I sent my daughter to school. I’ll be honest – I read the policy, but there was a big part of me that didn’t believe it. It wasn’t until my daughter told me that the school would take their key that I began to panic.
The message there to all of us parents is read the fine print and question it.
Our kids’ lives (and the lives of others) could depend on it.
Catherine Tidd is the owner of Social Seed Marketing and the bestselling author of Confessions of a Mediocre Widow . Based in Denver, Colorado, she loves to golf to escape her three teenagers and can often be found in her garden (when it’s not snowing) with her beloved dog, Max.