Senior year: the culmination of all the years we have spent together, through elementary school to middle school to now. Our final homecoming, our last football game, senior prom – staples of a public high school experience. That is, unless you’re a senior during an international pandemic.
So in how many ways is this year different for us, really? We have gathered a dozen, so you can see for yourself:
1. Hybrid Education Model
Blue or Green? If your answer isn’t the same as your bestie’s, then you’re out of luck. Stamford Public School’s decision to enforce a hybrid schedule this school year (with the students split up into two groups, blue and green) wasn’t unexpected – we all knew we weren’t going to go back like we used to. Even so, the fact that we can’t see a few of our friends in class anymore is a little disheartening.
2. Distance Learning Academy
First, take away all the students whose last names don’t fall in the same half of the alphabet as yours. Next, take away a handful of teachers. Finally, remove a few hundred students and put them in a district-wide digital learning platform, the Distance Learning Academy. What’s left? Only a scarce number of people that will dictate your in-school senior experience.
3. Virtual Everything
Stamford High and the rest of the schools in the district have finally caught up to the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (with help from the district, of course), and are distributing laptops or Chromebooks to all the students who need them. Nearly everything in class is done virtually now, with the understanding that we all have to be prepared to go back to distance learning at a moment’s notice.
4. Block Scheduling Who?
Remember when block scheduling was the big debate? Looks like Stamford High threw that idea out the window when the pandemic hit. Instead of the proposed four-period block schedule, or the former six-period rotating schedule, the school has now adopted a seven-period daily schedule, with no rotation. Your first period class will always be first, and your seventh period class will always be last. Inconvenient if you’re chronically tardy and only make it to the last half of your first class, every single day.
5. Masks, masks, masks
Cloth masks, single-use masks, bandanas, neck-gaiters, plastic face-shields, N-95 respirators … what does yours say about you? Can’t go to school without them. Or anywhere, really. They’re the new fashion trend, except forgetting yours at home can make the difference between being on time or being half an hour late.
6. Feet Apart
Remember when we could sit within six feet of each other? (When whispering to your friend in class was that much easier?) Those were the good old days. Now, classes are unnaturally quiet, filled with awkward silences and sad attempts at conversation, all because two meters apart is too far for casual conversation.
7. Minor Details
We can all admit to not washing our hands as much as we should be and relying on hand sanitizer a little too much. But good thing for us, Stamford High has installed hand sanitizer dispensers around every corner for everyone’s use. Kind of strange, but convenient. Oh, and also: hallways are divided into two lanes, directing students to walk on the right side. There are also arrows. And specific staircases designated for going up or down. It’s like we’re all obedient little cars in a driving video game, sanitizing our hands as we go.
Have you ever taken a standardized test? Just imagine the nervous air, the shared anxiety between all students, the forced conversation with strangers between different test sections. Now, imagine the desks pushed even farther apart from each other, in a high school cafeteria. Welcome to lunch during a pandemic.
9. More of Virtual Everything
Seniors rule the school, both socially – I mean, we are the coolest – and academically. Now clubs, honor societies, or other non-athletic teams have to hold their meetings online, either through Zoom or Google Meet. How are seniors supposed to impose our incredible authority onto the measly underclassmen through a computer screen?
10. Bye, Bye Senior Privileges
A few years ago, Sinead Martin and Sam Diamond made Stamford High history by persuading Principal Manka to grant seniors the permission to leave campus during lunch or study halls when they please, with no consequences. Any student’s dream, right? Well, I’m sure the past two senior classes enjoyed their privileges, because this year’s sure won’t be.
11. Pink Out, Without the Game
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has announced that they will be cancelling the fall football season this year due to COVID-19 concerns. Sure, some schools are talking about forming a private league with no government regulation, but who knows how that will play out? As of now, we have not only lost our chance to attend the last homecoming game, but also our last Pink Out game. That game is a staple of the Stamford High experience; it’s so big that even people from other schools show up.
12. And On Top of Everything: College
For those seniors who are planning on attending college, creating a list of colleges, researching them, visiting them, and filling out the application just became a lot more stressful. For most colleges and universities, there are no in-person tours offered. And the virtual ones? Please. Those could never compare to being there in person. If figuring out what colleges you want to apply to is difficult, then completing the application is on a whole other level. Remember when our guidance counselors were always there, only a few hallways away? Now we have to schedule an appointment to talk to them over the phone, or rely on communication solely through email. So. Many. More. Steps. To. Everything.
And that’s the list. Is it at least a little sad that we can’t finish high school “normally”? Of course. But in no way are we saying that Stamford High should change anything about this year – this is the right way to do things. Besides, we have accepted it: it’s better to do it this way than not have school at all.