Twenty years ago I was two months away from graduating high school. I had enough credits to where I had late arrival and early dismissal, was enrolled in advanced classes, was set to graduate with honors, and had quit my fast food job the summer before senior year so I could take part in everything there was that I hadn’t before my time was done. And take part I did. I spent my senior year as a captain on our high school’s colorguard team, was a part of key club and national honor society, sang in the concert choir, and had passed up my last year of lacrosse to try my hand at acting in our school’s one act plays and spring musical, something I had not participated in yet. I had amazing friends, fun teachers, and truly enjoyed all of those moments that make senior year special: Senior Projects, Prom, Graduation, and Grad Night.
On April 8, 2020 Governor Kate Brown announced that due to the Corona virus Oregon students would not be physically returning to their classrooms for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. I would be lying if I said that this move was unexpected, in fact, I believe many Oregon residents had a feeling that it was coming. Yet it did not stem the outrage that some have felt in what they consider to be a poor move on the Governor’s part. Myself? While it is not the preferred outcome, I understand it. Even if by the end of April cases were to slow down, there is still a risk of resurgence. With many of our schools overcrowded, it does not make sense to risk the health of students and their families, even if we were looking forward to watching our kids finish out their year.
Personally, I am a mom to an 8th grader and a 7th grader. I admit, I was looking forward to watching him walk at his 8th grade promotion, to have that moment where the finality of middle school sets in and the unknown of high school feels that much closer. Instead, he just completed his forecasting for his Freshman year online, and is working to adjust to the new distance learning program that is being put in place. My boys have laptops to work on, and the students who do not have had the opportunity over the last week to pick up chromebooks issued by the schools. Teachers are getting students connected to their Google classrooms and Google meets for daily calls. Beginning next week, assignments and grading will resume, though in a different format than anticipated.
While I am sad for my 8th grader, I can admit that it is nothing like what the parents of the Class of 2020 as well as the students themselves must be feeling. I have seen posts with seniors posing in their caps and gowns, parents questioning if perhaps the walk may be postponed, and people noting that this cut off is a strange transition into college. What must be going through the minds of the seniors who haven’t received their college acceptance letters yet?
I wanted to take this moment to stand in solidarity with the class of 2020. To mourn with them the activities and celebrations that they have earned through their hard work over the years that they no longer get to experience. To worry with them about the uncertainty of what to expect in the summer or fall. I want to stand with the parents who were ordering invites to gather family and friends together to celebrate their child’s achievements, but instead find themselves looking around for what happens next.
I believe that there are still good things ahead for the Class of 2020, that there are still ways to make this time and this year fulfilling and meaningful. It just may not look like originally anticipated. How will you make this season special for your senior, 8th grader, or 6th grader this Spring?