Pandemic restrictions lead to disappointment among high school seniors
By Cassie Kuhn
For the Enquirer
It’s been a frustrating year for many high school seniors as they deal with canceled events, quarantines and virtual courses.
Hartselle High senior Julya McMinemon said she’s had to put in extra effort this school year to stay on track academically because of Hartselle High’s alternating schedule, where students alternate between attending in-person school on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays one week and attending on Tuesdays and Thursdays the next.
“We’re on the split schedule right now, which is good in some ways and challenging in some ways. So every other day I’m at home, and when I’m at home, it’s a little bit hard to focus because it’s easy to get distracted,” McMinemon said. “I have to hold myself accountable to make sure that I wake up and log on.”
Hartselle High senior Brody Peebles said the staggered schedule was difficult to adjust to at first because he likes routine.
“Every day is different. There can be distractions,” he said. “The days you’re here again, it’s just (about) being proactive and taking care of what you need to take care of from the days you were gone. It’s definitely different, but I think over time, I’ve gotten used to it already.”
As senior class president, dance team captain, a school ambassador, a member of the chorus and a participant in various drama productions, McMinemon said she is staying busy this school year despite the changes the pandemic has brought about – as is Peebles, who is a school ambassador and basketball player.
“For dance, we have practice the same time we normally do,” McMinemon said. “When we enter practice, we wear our masks, we have to have our temperatures taken, and we’re encouraged to use hand sanitizer. It’s very different because on the team, we all like to hug each other and be all up in each other’s business, and we are trying our best to refrain from that this year.”
McMinemon said academics and extracurricular activities are manageable despite the pandemic, but the cancellation of many events – especially homecoming week activities – has been disappointing.
“It was a hard pill to swallow that we couldn’t do homecoming like we normally do because Hartselle gets really into it, and we have a lot of different events all week that require large groups of people to be in small spaces,” she said. “But we did do virtual competitions on our Facebook page that gave us the best that we could possibly have.”
Peebles said the school year has come with some adjustments, but he’s doing his best to stay positive.
“It’s definitely been different, and I think that as a school and just in general, everyone’s handled it really well,” Peebles said. “I think (homecoming events being canceled) was kind of tough. I think for me and a lot of people in our grade, that’s definitely the highlight of the year. But just knowing the situation is different, I think that everyone did a good job making the best of the situation. Even though it’s a bad situation, we still had fun.”
Jill Faulkner, a counselor at Brewer High, said the year has been challenging for seniors but has gone “better than expected.” She said when the pandemic first hit in March, there was a lot of fear and speculation about the future.
“They’ve missed out on a few things, and they’ve been bummed out about not having pep rallies and not eating in the cafeteria with their friends and things like that, but really, all the necessary things are getting done,” Faulkner said. “I think in a lot of ways it’s really put the whole life picture in perspective for our seniors and all of our students.”
Faulkner said spring events like pep rallies are a possibility but are unlikely given the current level of spread of COVID-19.
“I think (our seniors are) always hopeful, but I think they understand the situation, and I as a whole we don’t see (social activities) happening or necessarily want them to because of the concerns that are involved,” Faulkner said. “They really haven’t pressured us into trying to do the things that they shouldn’t.”
Faulkner said the silver lining of the pandemic is that resources were created and expanded to help students succeed.
“Our seniors this year have more opportunities than ever. Their AP classes have adjusted, and they offer online tutoring and online training sessions now … It prepares them more for college than it ever has,” she said. “And a lot of scholarship organizations have waived ACT scores, which opens it up to a lot of kids who had really high GPAs but maybe not as high of an ACT score.”