Photo courtesy of Gabriel Benois on Unsplash
If a senior had been told last March that their normal high school experience was about to drastically change, they might have laughed it off as a joke. How could anyone have foreseen the magnitude of which COVID-19 would impact school life? Campuses closed, teachers working from home, students attending classes virtually; for many high schoolers, this “semi-normal” return to schooling has been yet another reminder of how their worlds will never be the same again– and how COVID took their senior year from them.
2020 was a year heavy with loss. It showed itself in both large and small ways, from a canceled prom to the inability to go within six feet of friends and extended family. As infection and death numbers rose around the globe, so too did the precautions taken by the state of Virginia. What began as a two-week school hiatus quickly evolved into an indefinite quarantine.
What time the class of 2020 lost, the class of 2021 risked losing in an even more spectacular fashion. Rather than enter isolation halfway through the year, this year’s seniors started their final school year from home with little clue about when they could return. Deadlines for in-person learning came and went, the infection numbers spiking and forcing students to remain at home. Only recently has in-person learning returned, executed by a tentative hybrid model welcoming a handful of students back to school.
To best understand how students feel about the new model, some of them agreed to be interviewed. “It’s not the same because there’s only like a maximum of 10 people in my classes and I can’t talk to my classmates like I used to,” said Megan Sambile (12), one of the students attempting the hybrid learning environment. “I do think it has given me some part of senior year back, with finally forming connections with my teachers I only knew through a computer screen and walking in the hallways, knowing it’s my last chance to do so and I walk in the halls for the fourth year in a row, knowing it is my last.”
“I personally feel that they might get that in person connection with the teachers, but I don’t feel I’m missing out on my senior year any more than they are in terms of the experience,” said an anonymous senior who opted for virtual learning. “I feel like at this stage we have all missed out on our senior year experiences and to return 2-3 months at the end I don’t feel it will make up for anything.”
When asked if in-person learning had somewhat redeemed his COVID-heavy senior year, Frank Smoot-Canty said, “Definitely! Not fully of course, but being able to walk in the halls again and getting back to our new normal has definitely been worth it.”
Sometimes it’s the little things to be thankful for, such as returning to a familiar place and seeing familiar faces (behind facemasks, of course). Senior year of 2021 might never return to true normalcy, but right now, hybrid learning is the best way of giving students back a bit of what they lost.