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News: 10/01/2020

Pandemic High School

By Mackenzie Cramer

Ed: We asked Maria Carrillo High School senior Mackenzie Cramer, who lives in Kenwood, to give us her perspective on life during COVID. This is Part 1 of a series.

During February, I was more concerned with whether the school’s musical was going to be a success rather than if a global pandemic was going to rudely pause my junior year. It is clear that such worries no longer plague me.

As a high school senior, none of the past four years have been smooth. My first year as a high schooler was welcomed by devastating fires. The following years I was greeted with lost days due to power outages or poor air quality. I must say, however, this year takes the cake. A pandemic atop of fires as well as the pressure of performing well and submitting college applications – the world has out-done itself.

I first transitioned to online school back in March. Even when a month passed, when two months passed, there was the light at the end of the tunnel – the year would be over and my senior year would take place just as planned. I would close my final year at high school with all the pomp and circumstance that was promised when I first entered. The caps, the gowns, everything.

But now I’m facing the tunnel that I have waited to reach for so long and it’s much dimmer than I anticipated, even if I do turn up the brightness on my computer. The longer I stare at the Zoom screen proclaiming “Please wait, the meeting host will let you in soon,” the more I seem to become detached to the possibility of my last year of high school being offline. But still, the question nags me: How could my time playing an instrument in the band room become substituted with time watching a screen?

In a conversation with a friend of mine, Macdalah Fry, also a senior in high school, she remarked, “I didn’t think school could get any worse. We have zooms and teachers go past the time they’re supposed to do. And the screens give me a headache and it’s so much harder to get help.”

She seemed to voice a shared experience and feeling among my peers. With no face-to-face contact, learning and connection to the material being taught is suffering. In order to remedy this drift, some teachers elect to make their stays even longer. However, for students, that often leads to what Macdalah detailed above: headaches and annoyance.

There seems to be no winning in this dilemma. Longer classes lead to students that are less interested in the material, but too little communication leads to limited active learning. Even as a senior in this last home stretch, I am finding difficulty in staying motivated and involved in what I am being taught. Who would have known that learning about Calculus is proving to be more complicated with a bad connection?

Aside from the challenge of remaining compelled, there’s also the challenge of limited school resources. Not being on campus means no large school events, no school sports, and limited possibilities concerning many art classes. All of that combined affects a large portion of the student population and takes away from what may be the most appealing aspect of school. However, in another arguably more serious aspect, it also highlights the large socio-economic disparities at our campus among the various students. This limited access to these resources indisputably greatly showcases the inequities that many may have been able hide otherwise.

One example of this is home environments. Students don’t often casually discuss their socio-economic status, but now not revealing it is proving impossible. Many students don’t have access to places to work at home and are not comfortable disclosing their personal spaces to their classmates and teachers, whether it be out of privacy or self-consciousness. On top of that, some students simply don’t have adequate connection as well quiet places to work. Although these issues face everyone, they’re arguably greater feats to overcome in communities that are less wealthy and have fewer resources.

For seniors there’s also the difficulty of deciding and solidifying future plans in a world where nothing is ensured. There’s an absence of both security as well as guidance. Macdalah detailed this issue, saying, “I expected more to be done about the counselors or the College and Career Center, but there’s not that much information to look for help. It’s kind of like you have to work by yourself, individually, to get prepared for college. Counselors don’t respond quickly or at all sometimes.”

Nothing about this situation is easy for anyone, including students. But despite the troubles it may cause us, I’m sure that most of us recognize the importance and immensity of the time we’re in. There’s nothing we can do except wait and hope a safe return to normal comes before we’re forced to make bathroom passes for our own homes.

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