Sheboygan Falls High School Seniors Persevere during Virtual Learning Days
By: Mary Hammarlund, Student Newspaper Editor
The entire country has been impacted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, and school students are no exception. The Class of 2020 has been impacted in several ways as uncertainty brought on by the pandemic affects their final days of high school. During these unforeseeable events, the seniors of Sheboygan Falls High School(SFHS) continue to persevere and honor the efforts of their classmates.
The School District of Sheboygan Falls began virtual instruction on March 18, 2020 after Governor Tony Evers issued an executive order that closed all K-12 schools in Wisconsin. While the closure was initially projected to last until April 6, the closure was soon extended indefinitely, leading to many seniors becoming concerned for the end of their high school journey. As of April 16th, Evers has closed all K-12 schools in the state for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, leaving seniors in a difficult position.
“School has been a passion for me since I was young,” reflects senior Mary Hammarlund. “Having the social aspects of school, which is much of what makes me love it, stripped away, especially as a senior, has been hard to cope with. Everything I thought the end of my senior year would be was changed so quickly and with little warning.”
Other seniors share Hammarlund’s sentiments. “When we first got out, I was really unsure of how to feel,” says senior Abi Charbonneau. “Everything seemed really up in the air and for the first week, I felt really angry. It's not really anyone's fault, so it didn't even feel like there should be anyone to be angry at, but I just felt really frustrated about being home. Now that some weeks have passed and I'm used to being at home, I still feel angry sometimes.”
Charbonneau also raised concerns about how the COVID-19 closure will impact her post high school plans. “I wonder how I am going to afford college due to my place of work closing,” she explains. “I think that there’s just a lot of unknown variables, and we just have to be really conscious about how we treat and react to others.”
Despite these emotions that the Class of 2020 faces, instruction is continuing and the class continues to persevere. “A typical Virtual Learning Day starts off with me going through all of the announcements from each of my teachers,” explains senior Avery Olafson. “I then make a list of when all assignments are due and which need to be prioritized over others. I space out my work time by doing two of my classes in the morning, afternoon, and evening to split up the workload.”
Virtual instruction varies by household and student schedules. “A typical Virtual Learning Day for me starts with me waking up at 8:00-9:00 and eating breakfast,” explains Charbonneau. “I usually start with the classes that I know are going to take the most time, and then work my way down from there.”
While the sudden change in instruction and life has been stressful for the Class of 2020, they are still keeping in touch with their friends and their teachers. “One of my teachers recently started doing weekly meetings on Google Meet,” explains Hammarlund. “She uses it as a way to update us on what we will be doing in the class and as a way to talk to us and see our faces. While it is not the same as being in a classroom, I look forward to speaking with her and my classmates.”
According to Hammarlund, teachers have been very responsive to student concerns and have been making an effort to help students through uncertain times. “Whenever a student has a question, they usually email the teacher and get a quick response,” she explains. “From my experience, they are also very intent on responding to non-academic concerns. When I reached out to one of my teachers with anxiety I was having about my aunt, who was believed to have COVID-19 at one point, she responded and offered support to help me feel better.”
In addition to being a tool for learning outside the classroom, technology is a powerful tool for keeping students connected. “I am staying connected with my friends over text messaging, Snapchat, and other forms of social media,” Olafson describes. “Each week, my friends and I have a Facetime meeting where we all do our own type of “craft” and talk for a few hours. Every Sunday, I also have a Zoom meeting with my club softball team which makes me very happy to stay connected with my teammates.”
While the seniors are persevering through difficult times, many still have concerns over the end of senior year and how they will be honored. In response to these concerns, seniors Alisa Mendez, Jordyn Girdaukas, and Alyson Bennin have created an Instagram page (@sfhsseniors) dedicated to recognizing the efforts of their classmates and telling the public where they are going next. Each senior is invited to share a photo of him or herself, a favorite high school memory, and post high school plans. After each submission, the girls will create a personal infographic to be shared on the account.
“After realizing how our senior year could come to an end online, I thought it would be a great idea to recognize and honor our seniors,” explains Bennin. “Most seniors share their lives online, and I think Instagram is a great way to share our future plans amongst each other. I saw some other schools recognizing their seniors, and Alisa, Jordyn, and I thought of different ideas to make our senior recognition post more personal to each individual.”
Social media has been valuable to keeping students connected, and it has also been utilized as a tool for spreading the word of this Instagram page. According to Mendez, “We are promoting our page by sharing via social media and hoping to get as many seniors to take place in this as possible.”
Sheboygan Falls High School has been intent on honoring the Class of 2020’s achievements. Yard signs were purchased for every senior using the class fund, and will be distributed to the class on May 11th. Their commencement ceremony, which was initially scheduled for May 31st, has been rescheduled for August 2nd. If gatherings are not permitted on this date, a virtual ceremony will take place.
While many students remain stressed regarding current events, there are great things ahead for the Class of 2020. “I am looking forward to the end of this closure because I am heading for college at the end of August,” Hammarlund explains. “I hope that by then, it is safe for in-person instruction to continue.”
Many seniors have offered ideas for their efforts to be honored due to their graduation ceremony being uncertain. While SFSD is committed to providing recognition to the class, social distancing guidelines mean that a usual ceremony is likely impossible despite many seniors believing that the experience cannot be replaced. “One idea I have seen floating around is having an outdoor graduation ceremony, where we use the large athletic field as a means of keeping everyone six feet apart,” Hammarlund explains. “If possible, immediate family could watch in person, and the ceremony could be live streamed online for others.”
“This is a reminder for the underclassmen to never take a moment of high school for granted,” says Olafson. “Kids are known for dreading going to school each and every day, but when you take away the place where you see your best friends and favorite teachers, it makes you miss it every moment.”
Click here to read Principal Krutzik’s letter to the parents of the senior class.