Graduation, college plans not the same for high school seniors

Virus has delayed graduation four months, could affect fall start

Casey Van Divier
cvandivier@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/21/20

The Class of 2020 has already seen much of their senior year disrupted, if not outright cancelled. Even now, not much is certain about the future, but Jefferson County Public Schools’ spring …

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Graduation, college plans not the same for high school seniors

Virus has delayed graduation four months, could affect fall start

Posted

The Class of 2020 has already seen much of their senior year disrupted, if not outright cancelled. Even now, not much is certain about the future, but Jefferson County Public Schools’ spring graduation ceremonies, district leaders have announced a plan to give students the next best option, tentatively rescheduling high school graduations for Aug. 7, 8, 14 and 15.

The hope is that by those dates, four months away from the district’s April 10 announcement, restrictions on group gatherings will no longer be in place.

However, even if ceremonies can go forward, local seniors agree that the pandemic is bound to bring some disappointments that the students previously hadn’t foreseen.

By August, “I know that some of my friends will be in boot camp (basic training) by then and some will be rushing around to leave for college,” said senior Ciara O’Neill, Lakewood High School’s student body president. “The thought of them not getting to have that final experience is adding to the sadness that I won’t get that final goodbye with them.”

For Lakewood senior Emma Hirshblond, the rescheduling likely means her grandparents can no longer attend her graduation, she said.

On top of that, “the biggest difference is going to be the feeling of it,” she said. “Most of us will have moved on from high school at that point. A lot of us are already going to be looking into the future more than we would have been.”

Even so, as the two students look to the August reunion with their classmates, “I think it will mean so much more to us after having to be apart for so long,” O’Neill said.

In addition to rescheduling their graduations, schools have been working with their student governments to determine which senior year events can somehow continue.

At Ralston Valley High School in Arvada, students have found ways to ensure a number of traditions go on, such as by holding a virtual senior countdown and scheduling their senior class picnic for later in the summer.

The school is also planning to provide guides for students on how they can host their own “mini proms” online, and potentially ask students to send in photos of themselves in their prom dresses for a virtual fashion show, said Jenny Braketa, math teacher and student government sponsor.

“This class has shown a lot of resilience. They’ve overcome some difficult situations and they’re trying to make the best out of just a weird situation,” she said. “I haven’t found them feeling sorry for themselves. I’ve found them just owning it.”

At Lakewood High, some events like the senior picnic could also potentially still happen, with Hirshblond highlighting the district and administrators for ensuring students’ senior year will be as special as possible.

“Jefferson County is doing a really good job of making sure students’ needs are met,” she said.

What’s next

The rescheduled events and graduations don’t mark the end of the uncertainty for the class of 2020. For many of them, the pandemic has already affected some of their college plans.

“My college has already canceled in-person orientation, which is definitely going to be tricky,” said Hirshblond, who will attend the University of Washington in the fall. “And every senior in the US is going through the same things I am.”

Reinke, who plans to attend Colorado State University next year, said her freshman orientation sessions have also been moved online.

Additionally, “if my first semester of college was online, I would consider taking a gap year,” she said. “I want to get the full experience and I don’t want to have to do another year of online school.”

As for O’Neill, who was in the process of deciding whether to attend a local community college or the University of Colorado Boulder when the pandemic began, she said the virus’s continued effects have made her more likely to attend a community college, at least for next year.

Even so, amid all of the scheduling and logistical changes that other classes haven’t faced, the class of 2020 has also grown in ways the seniors believe will carry into the future.

“I’ve been reflecting a lot on what this has shown me about high school. I feel content that I made the best of my senior year leading up to this, and I’m still going to finish off the year and graduate,” Reinke said. “I think the good has outweighed the bad.”

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