Walt Disney World is a massive resort that employs thousands of people across numerous industries. While the decision to close down the resort due to the coronavirus outbreak was certainly frustrating for vacationing families, it was equally difficult for those people who work there. This is especially true for a large number of those who are part of Disney's College Program. who were informed last week that their program was being terminated.
The announcement that the College Program was ending went out on March 14, and it apparently ended the program immediately, which, according to ITM, resulted in numerous cast members leaving Epcot in the middle of the day. Normal shifts were not even completed.
While the exodus of College Program members was clearly noticed, it doesn't sound like the reduction in staffing had a massive impact on the parks during the last few days before Walt Disney World closed. It will be shutdown through at least the end of March, along with the rest of Disney's parks around the world.
On the plus side, everybody that was part of the program is being given a successful program completion. Disney has also stated that those that are interested in returning after the current chaos has abated will be given the opportunity to do so. However, the situation is still frantic for a lot of people. All this meant that not only would they be out of a job, but they would also need to find alternative living arrangements, as the Disney College Program provides housing, but everybody using that housing needs to be out of it by tomorrow, March 18.
The Disney College Program is a popular opportunity for many students. It offers a variety of work experience in Disney's theme parks and for many it's a gateway to long-term employment with the company. As such, it's understandable that many took the loss of their situation quite hard.
As fan communities go, Disney has one of the strongest out there, and while Disney itself has offered to assist any college program member with whatever is needed -- as certainly things like flights home or alternative housing were not expected to be needed at this point -- social media has picked up the slack, and a hashtag has sprouted up to connect former College Program members with places to stay, rides to the airport, help packing, or whatever else they might need.
Needless to say, this whole situation has been a wild ride for all involved and everybody is trying to make the best of a bad situation. Hopefully, everybody will make it home safely and all who want to return to Walt Disney World when things are less intense again will be able to do so. This is uncharted territory for Walt Disney World, which previously has only ever had to close for events like hurricanes or on Sept 11, where the parks chose to close for a couple of days at a time.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.