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As virus spreads, this college wants students to return and clean their dorm rooms

Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

MENLO PARK, Calif. -- As colleges across California shuttered their campuses and sent most students home last week, one campus in the Bay Area is requiring its students to return -- amid a pandemic -- and clean out their dorm rooms.

On March 18, Evette Castillo Clark, St. Mary's College dean of students, emailed parents and students that the Moraga campus was closing and students needed return and get their dorm rooms cleaned out by April 14.

The day before, six Bay Area counties, including Contra Costa, where the college is located, announced a shelter-in-place order in response to the growing threat of the coronavirus. Health officials want people to maintain distance from everyone but their immediate families.

"We realize that most students are away from campus now and are concerned about the shelter-in-place order established for Contra Costa County and surrounding Bay Area counties," wrote the dean. "We want to clarify that the order explicitly allows 'essential travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning.'

"Please plan to move out at your earliest opportunity," she wrote.

Some parents are livid.


"This is so reckless," said Karen Lane, who lives in Littleton, Colo. Her daughter, Madison, returned home the day the six counties announced the shelter-in-place. She's reluctant to send her daughter back to campus.

"The whole point (of the order) is to keep us from being mobile. Does anybody really need their comforter or coffee mug that badly?" she said.

St. Mary's College, a mission-style campus nestled in the rolling hills of the East Bay, follows a Lasallian Catholic educational philosophy. Roughly 3,600 students attend the liberal arts school, which claims notable alumni such as the actor Brian Doyle-Murray and Carolina Marquez, host of Cali Mornings, Cali 93.9 Los Angeles.

Incredulous and concerned about the college's order, Lane wrote to Clark expressing her alarm at the idea of sending her daughter to the Bay Area on an airplane while there's a growing global pandemic.


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