The world was introduced to the terrifying reality of Covid-19, known more commonly as simply the “coronavirus” in December 2019 when it was first diagnosed in Wuhan, China. It made its way to the United States in January 2020.
In the following weeks, it arrived in the state of Pennsylvania. Out of an abundance of caution, Governor Tom Wolf announced on March 13 2020 all schools across the state of Pennsylvania were to be shut down for 10 business days and all school activities, subsequently, had been canceled or postponed indefinitely. Two weeks turned into four weeks, and after that, the guidelines changed to “indefinitely,” leaving much uncertainty in the student body if they would ever see their friends, favorite teachers or the inside of their alma mater ever again.
“There’s so much uncertainty right now,” said senior Hailey Croushore in a tweet on March 15.
Following Gov. Wolf’s decision to close all Pennsylvania schools for the current school year – as is the case for schools across the nation – online learning began in the Southmoreland on March 30 following two full weeks of preparing for the newfound automated endeavor. The supplemental learning included daily assignments through the Google Classroom application as well as several teachers conducting meetings on the video communication app Zoom for their lessons. The changes have proven to be challenging not just for the students but for their teachers as well.
“This is just as difficult for me to adjust to as the students,” said math teacher Mrs. Kim Kelley. “There’s a lot we’re just getting used to.”
The response to the distance learning from the students within the district was overwhelmingly negative, with many students making complaints related to the heavy work load and the way many teachers were handling the situation giving guidance that fell short of the traditional classroom setting.
Disappointment only grew when the administration made further announcements that detailed the cancellation of the spring sport season at the hands of PIAA and the Southmoreland prom, and district administrators were forced to redesign the entire graduation ceremony, the details of which are still in the planning stage.
“The restrictions right now are very limiting, even when we enter the next phase of reopening the state, we’re only permitted groups of 25, even when social distancing is followed,” said senior class sponsor and teacher Mrs. Jenna Hixson.
An outpour of support for the senior class rang out with many parents being frustrated at the decision.
“My daughter’s graduation is no more important than a McDonald’s drive thru. I can’t believe this,” said Mandy Fullem, mother of senior Abby Fullem.
“They worked for 13 years for this?” questioned another parent.
However, many were quick to sympathize and understand the actions being taken with the guidelines they were given.
Devastation however, has been felt across the board, not just in the senior class.
Freshmen had their first experiences in their new school torn from them much too soon; sophomores that may have just come out of their shells and made new friends were now forced into the position of possibly not seeing these new friends until next school year. And juniors were left with the uncertainty that they may not be able to participate in upcoming senior activities in the summer and fall as well.
“The kids are getting a bad deal right now,” said science teacher Mr. Cavalier.
Yet the ultimate culprit is the coronavirus, and there are no signs that it will relent anytime soon.
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