Parents and students nationwide contend with school closures: "Overwhelming anxiety"

Parents feel anxiety as schools close
Parents feel anxiety as schools close 03:20

Thirty-three states are closing public schools to stop the spread of the coronavirus, affecting at least 32.5 million K-12 students.

New York City's school system, the largest in the nation, is closed starting Monday.

The sudden closures are forcing parents and guardians to find child care at a moment's notice.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that the city's public schools will be closed until at least April 20 — possibly even longer. "It's going to be very difficult for a lot of our families," he said.

The closures come as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says closing for at least eight weeks may help mitigate the virus' spread.

School officials in New York City have just hours left today to figure out a way for children who rely on school meals to continue getting that support, and to make sure that health care workers and first responders have access to child care.

Schools and businesses continue to close 01:51

This is the new normal for so many parents across the country, said CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver, reporting from her house in Montclair, New Jersey, where her children are also home from school, logging onto their computers for online classes.

And as more schools shut down, the inability of many families to afford laptops for their children is a huge problem.

Olivia Austin is an eighth grade social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey, where schools are closed throughout the state. "I feel bad because I don't have any answers right now, either," she said via Skype. "Schools offer a type of security that they thrive off of, so just not having that sense of security is also an added stress."

Austin is concerned that her students could fall behind on their curriculum.

"One of the biggest challenges is, I work in an inner city school, and a lot of our students don't have access to laptops."

Another concern at the top of educators' minds: providing meals to students who rely on school lunches as their primary source of nutrition.

In Virginia, the Arlington public school system started a "grab and go" initiative, where students will be able to pick up breakfast and lunch bags while schools remain out of session for the next four weeks.

"About 30% of our students in Arlington participate in the free and reduced meals program," said Amy Maclosky, food services director for Arlington Public Schools. "So, I do think that there would be students who had nothing to eat tomorrow for breakfast."

Kristin Little is a single mom with two kids who are expected to be at home for the next month at a minimum. "We need more than 12-24 hours to plan for the complete disruption of, not just our lives, but the lives of children," she said.

"My first reaction when I got the notification they were going to shutter the schools for a month was instant, overwhelming anxiety, and I broke into tears," she said. "Because you're just completely not mentally or physically prepared for something like that."