Teachers and students have adjusted to the end of the 2019-2020 school year with online learning, cancellation of events and schools closing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the senior class, the typical culmination to one of the biggest chapters in their lives has been rewritten with an alternative ending.
When schools closed in March, Reedsburg Area High School senior Ashley Krieski, 18, didn’t get a chance to participate in her first track season or even say good bye to her fellow classmates and teachers. The emotions of missing out on aspects of a typical senior year is what she described as “crazy” and seems “unreal.”
“Because it feels like its summer so I’m just going to go back,” Krieski said. “But it’s kind of sad though too, to think you’re never going to have one more normal day at Reedsburg as a high school student.”
The most difficult part for Krieski in missing out the final months of her senior year is not seeing friends and classmates every day in the hallway or class or attending sporting events with them. The only way she communicates with her friends and copes with the emotions is through technology, social media or Zoom.
“It’s not the same as being with each other in school and hanging out,” Krieski said.
In Wisconsin, schools have been closed since mid-March due to Gov. Tony Evers’ efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. While the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the extended Safer at Home order May 13, the ruling does not apply to schools, meaning seniors still miss out on final experiences like school plays, band concerts, prom, sports seasons and walking through the hallways as a student.
Instead of a traditional graduation ceremony at the high school, the Class of 2020 will receive their diplomas through a drive-up presentation at Webb Park scheduled for May 29. The event will be recorded and inserted into a virtual ceremony, which will also be pre-recorded to air June 5. Other schools around the nation have taken similar measures to celebrate the milestone while avoiding crowd gathering during the pandemic.
While she missed out on being in her first high school play, senior Annabelle Moon,18, doesn’t have any regrets with her senior year and feels like she “did it all.” However, the hardest part for both her and Krieski was not getting to say good bye and express gratitude to the teachers who helped them achieve their goals throughout the entire four years as a student.
“I didn’t get to shake any hands or give hugs or say ‘thank you for being a wonderful educator and changing my life,’” Moon said.
Like other students, Krieski and Moon have adjusted from the face-to-face classes at the high school to writing research papers, taking tests and communicating with teachers through a computer screen from home.
In addition to completing their school work, both seniors have kept busy preparing for their future plans after graduation. Krieski has weekly Zoom meetings with her future teammates on the golf team at Winona State, where she plans to attend school to study business education. Moon has contacted her future roommate through social media and applied for scholarships to prepare for her freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to major in journalism and communications.
As colleges start to welcome students for the fall semester, some schools have considered the possibility of limiting or cancelling in-person classes or hosting online-only formats, should restrictions still be in place to slow the spread of the virus or if there would be a second wave. Both seniors said nothing is official with their colleges of choice and everything is still normal for now. Counselors have been keeping them updated should an official change be made.
“Ultimately you just got to play it by ear and hope for the best,” Moon said.
Moon said she doesn’t feel her senior year at Reedsburg has been taken away. Instead, she is finding ways to make the best of it by creating new and unique memories, pandemic-style.
During Teacher’s Appreciation Week, Moon and her friends showed support for the school district’s teachers by driving to each teacher’s house to draw messages of gratitude with sidewalk chalk. Moon and her friends held a small drive-by birthday parade for one friend and a vehicle scavenger hunt for another.
She’s seeing her friends through Minecraft and “parking lot parties,” where each vehicle is parked in a parking lot in a big circle to see each other in person while remaining socially distant.
“Of course I wish it ended differently but I’m still grateful for all of the new experiences I’ve gotten to have with COVID-19,” Moon said. “I’m not saying I haven’t lost out on experiences but I’ve been able to make experiences with a positive attitude. That way I’m not just missing out, I’m making things happen despite what I am missing out on.”
The experience has taught Krieski an important lesson to soak in every moment because you never know when it will be the last.
“Definitely don’t take anything for granted and be grateful for what you have,” she said.
Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.