Day 6

How COVID-19 is putting young people's futures on hold

Classes are cancelled and students are wondering what lies ahead as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hear from three students, near graduation, about their concerns.

'Right now I would say I'm doing fine, but 2 weeks down the road it might be different,' says Rachel Allan

The Ontario and Quebec governments have shut down school until April 5. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Jenn Gibson's reaction to Ontario-wide school closures was likely the same as many high schoolers.

"My initial reaction ... was basically, yay! We have [a] three-week March Break. But then I started worrying about how it's actually going to affect school and everything," the Grade 12 student at Waterdown District High School in Waterdown, Ont., told Day 6.

The Ontario government ordered all publicly funded schools to close last week, in the effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Classes won't resume until at least April 5.

Private schools and daycares were also ordered to close. Universities meanwhile shifted many of their classes to online-only resources.

Jenn Gibson is a Grade 12 student wondering if she'll be able to go to university as a result of the school closures. (Submitted by Jenn Gibson)
The moves have left students in a lurch, wondering whether they will be able to complete their work for the year, with graduation left uncertain for many.

Gibson hopes to apply to a biology program for university, but is worried the application process might be delayed because of the pandemic.

"Me and my friends are pretty stressed about how this will affect school and graduation," she said.

Hands-on classes hobbled

Rachel Allan worries that the closures will hamper her eventual job prospects in the health-care field. She's in the second year of a three-year respiratory therapy program at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., and says many of her courses are impossible to do online.

"It's heavily hands-on based, because we will be working in a hospital setting," she said. Courses include lab simulations where students work together with mannequins playing the part of patients.

Allan is hopeful her graduation will still be on track, but says the weeks lost during this pandemic will impact her chances for a job afterwards.

"Our students this year are just going to be less prepared. I imagine we would be delayed in terms of beginning our clinical placement if we cannot, or if we can't finish these courses on time," she said.

Rachel Allan is a college student who fears her clinical placement in the healthcare field may be postponed. (Submitted by Rachel Allan)

The widespread closures and restrictions, particularly those limiting restaurants to take-out or delivery only, have had an effect on students' income as well.

Allan works at a family restaurant, which is closed for now.

"Luckily like I have put aside money, so for me, I'm not extremely worried ... but I know that I do have coworkers that yesterday already applied for their EI and they do rely on that source of income every bi weekly with our paychecks," she said.

The Dairy Queen where Gibson works has transitioned to drive-through only. "My hours have been cut in half, basically," she said.

Job prospects in question

Ryerson student Ryan Anning said he's currently planning on finishing his interior design program in the fall. But he's worried about his job prospects once he's finished.

Ryan Anning is finishing his final year at Ryerson University and worries there won't be any jobs when he graduates. (Submitted by Ryan Anning)
"What are the economic repercussions of this?" he said.

The closures have shut down a year-end showcase for students in his program, where he says they "sort of schmooze" and meet with people in the industry.

"You get to showcase everything that you've done and, you know, all the blood, sweat and tears, what that's led to," he said of the event that his cohort will now likely go without.

"I think students from our program are hired, you know, pretty well right away. And I feel as though, you know, we've basically lost out because of this."

Boredom sets in

With the social distancing orders in effect, classes cut or cancelled and part-time jobs on hold, the students have little else to face weeks of tedium other than catching up on homework.

"All the gyms everywhere have closed. My work is closed, so I can't work. And even seeing friends, that's limited because obviously we're trying to minimize social gatherings and the potential spread of the coronavirus," said Allan.

"Right now, I would say I'm doing fine. But two weeks down the road, yeah, it might be different."

Anning said he had a small get-together with friends last week, but as restrictions on the size of gatherings increase, he isn't sure when he'll be able to do that again. In the meantime he's been checking in on friends online.

Other than homework, he's been taking these weeks to address a looming pile of chores.

"My room has not been this clean for a while," he said.

Written by Jonathan Ore. To hear more, download our podcast.

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