The Impact of COVID-19 on High School Seniors

Colleen Starkey, Editor-in-Chief

Many schools across Texas have closed temporarily due to COVID-19 as more cases are reported, and some schools have already shut down for the rest of the academic year. Although we will likely not have to make up the days we are missing in the classroom because everything has moved to online learning platforms, this time poses a unique situation for this year’s seniors.

As a senior, there are a lot of memories I could have made that are up in the air at the moment. I play clarinet in the band, and in just a couple of weeks, we were supposed to have our concert and sightreading contest. The University Interscholastic League (UIL) has canceled all band events, except for the State Solo and Ensemble contest that is currently scheduled for the beginning of June. Each year at our spring concert is held in the middle of May, the seniors are recognized for their seven years in the Lindale band program through a slideshow of pictures ranging from newborn to graduate as we walk onto the stage in front of all of our friends and family. We are hopeful that we will still have this opportunity, but because it is up in the air at the moment, one band senior is recognized on the band Facebook page each weekday. However, although we are still being recognized, there is something special about walking onto that stage one last time as our picture and name flash onto the screen for the entire audience to see. Additionally, the senior band members take a trip over Memorial Day weekend each year as a final celebration. This year, we were planning to go to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. Though this trip has not been canceled, our band directors are not sure if we will be going on the trip this year. I have never been to Tennessee before, so I had a particular interest in this trip.

Apart from the band, this trip also poses a change in UIL academics. Governor Greg Abbott has canceled school for all students in the state of Texas through May 1, and the UIL has canceled all of its events through May 3. I compete on the UIL Journalism team and have since I was a freshman. For us, there are three levels: District, Region, and State. Our district competition was scheduled for March 28, Region for April 3 and 4 and State for May 1 and 2. We have been preparing for this all year by attending practice meets and writing at home to keep us competition-ready. I was hoping to finally advance to the State meet after three years of just barely missing out on it, and it is still unclear if these events will be rescheduled for a later date.

Though not all seniors are in band or UIL academic competitions, there are also many senior student athletes. The girls’ basketball UIL State competition was the last one to be completely finished before everything shut down, and the boys’ basketball State competition was in progress before being suspended. As for the remaining sports – soccer, track, powerlifting, baseball and softball – it is still unclear what the status is on any potential reschedules for these competitions, and none of these sports had even reached the beginning of the playoffs at the time of the shutdowns. Sports pertains to even more senior students than other events, and these athletes are wondering if they will get to play their final high school games. Additionally, many athletes were relying on their senior seasons for scholarships to play college ball, but they do not know if they will have this chance.

Finally, there are a lot of questions regarding senior prom and graduation. Our prom was scheduled for May 2 but has now been postponed to a still undecided date. Senior prom is a tradition. We all dress formally and dance the night away as a last bit of fun before AP tests, graduation and heading off to start our adult lives. Prom, for a very long time, has often been a night that seniors will remember for the rest of their lives, but there is still uncertainty surrounding it because of the coronavirus. As for graduation, our seniors will still walk the stage ,but there is a chance that it could be postponed because of the current conditions. Our administrators are preparing for the class of 2020 to walk the stage and throw our caps in the air as high school graduates have for years, even if that means we will not have the official ceremony until July or even August. Graduation is the one constant despite all the changes. Regardless of if it must be moved or not, the seniors will still have that one perfect senior experience to remember forever, and I am certainly grateful for that, especially amid all the uncertainty surrounding everything else.

Among all the students in any district, the seniors have the most unique and unusual experience. Though this is a challenge for all non-seniors, those students still have the typical senior experiences such as a final chance to earn scholarships, senior trips and senior prom, seniors are faced with the unpredictability of the current circumstances more than other students because this was our year to make those final high school memories that have now been greatly affected by COVID-19.