’It definitely does hurt’

Michael Smith

When the announcement came that schools would be closed until at least April 6, Madill High School senior Rayne Adams thought an extended spring break would be awesome. However as the days dragged on, he and many of his classmates realized that COVID-19 precautions were cancelling a lot of things.

Events like senior prom and graduation ceremonies are major milestones for any American teenager as they mark the end of an important chapter in life. Now the traditions shared by classes before are threatened with delays and cancellations.

Furthermore, for students like Adams and others in the class of 2020, their final day in a high school classroom came and went without pomp or ceremony.

“I definitely would have treated my last day before leaving differently, if I knew it was my last day. I’m pretty sure everybody would have,” he said by phone on Wednesday.

As distance learning in Oklahoma rolls out this week, all students will be adjusting to a new normal for the remainder of the school year. Districts across the state were given guidance by the state to complete the school year without classrooms, and individual district plans are expected to vary based on a number of factors like school size and available resources.

The challenges for parents, students, teachers and administrators are plentiful, but for the class of 2020 the impact of COVID-19 is unique.

Alejandra Salas, also a Madill High School senior, shares in the disappointment caused by a pandemic that now has most of the region practicing social distancing. She has tried to find the bright spots by focusing on her own interests, which include French lessons not pursued in about four years.

Regardless of the extra time for family and hobbies, Salas and Adams each say they're disappointed by missing speech and debate competitions their senior year. Along with classmate Alivia Cantrell, the three Madill High School students each received a statewide arts award —another ceremony canceled due to coronavirus concerns — and were hoping their talents would take them to state competitions.

But regional competitions were canceled before they could ever find out.

Then there is a speech and debate showcase, something Salas said Madill students have done for seven years, that has been canceled. “I’ve been a part of showcase for the four years I’ve been in speech, so it definitely does hurt,” she said by phone on Thursday.

Basketball competitions, baseball seasons, track meets, scholar bowls, and countless other events are also canceled. A jazz band competition for Adams was not only supposed to be a way to perform music, it was supposed to be a way to network with peers.

“That’s where I meet a lot of new friends, that’s where I meet my friends from other schools,” he said.

Both students expressed appreciation for their personal situations. Neither is concerned about their academic performance as classrooms transition mostly online, but the seniors are aware that some classmates will struggle with connectivity or worse.

Adams said some of his classmates without home internet access will have curriculum packets delivered and hopes it will be enough. “It’s just a big change for everybody, especially kids that are struggling at school,” he said.

For Salas, her concern is for students who rely on school for more than just education. “I do feel bad for those who are being abused in their homes and can’t say anything about it because school is their only escape,” she said.

Despite all that has happened to what should have been another traditional school year, students are trying to find any bright spots they can. Salas said she is enjoying more time with family, and Adams said he is learning to put some of the canceled events into perspective.

He still wants a graduation ceremony, however.

“This is still extremely important to us. I don’t care if we all have to wear masks and rubber gloves and no handshake with the superintendent and principal, but we want this to happen. We want to wear our caps and gowns that we’ve paid for. We want to invite our family and friends to see us finish out our high school career, especially our parents,” he said.