The year that never was – part 1

Sandpoint High School seniors share what it’s like to have their graduation year sidelined by the coronavirus

Editor’s note: We reached out to a few graduating seniors at Sandpoint High School to ask how the coronavirus has affected their final year of secondary education. We asked each student how their lives have been altered by the closure of schools for the rest of their senior year, what they were most looking forward to this year, if there are any positives that have come out of this situation and how students were reacting to distance learning. Special thanks to SHS social studies teacher Conor Baranski for putting us in touch with some of his students. Next week, we’ll feature two more student perspectives.


Kendall Mitton

Kendall Mitton. Courtesy photo.

While I highly anticipated running into catastrophic events during my lifetime, the coronavirus caught me off guard. 

I have yet to determine whether that is because I was so close to a major transition in my life or because it is an inconspicuous war that requires a substantial amount of unity to end. 

Our nation, along with the entire globe, has been asked to give up our everyday routines and be understanding of the circumstances. 

Some individuals take these rules and guidelines more seriously than others, nonetheless, at the end of the day everyone is giving up something. 

The stay-at-home order by Governor Brad Little may have come as a relief to many Idahoans, however, that’s not the case for most high-school seniors — including myself. 

With “senioritis” kicking in, as expected, I knew distance learning would be a barrier I had to cross. Even being a student who is highly involved in school and invested in my education, juggling classes, chores and free time in the comfort of your own home is challenging. 

Despite our local district’s best efforts, the online education we are currently being provided with does have its downsides and imperfections. Regardless, my sincere respect and appreciation goes out to all the teachers and administration who have also been struggling with the social-distancing education. 

Being a member of the Senior Class Student Council, I have shared some of the frustrating emotions teachers are facing with the stay-at-home order. Having everything perfectly planned and prepared for, only to be completely deteriorated by COVID-19 is discouraging to say the least.

Prom is an event that most seniors look forward to as a last hurrah before graduation. Having the tickets printed, a deejay in line, decorations coming together, as well as a location and date determined made me very excited for the night. As a result, when I was notified that our prom was being postponed until further notice, the news was disheartening. 

I am remaining calm with the constant assurance of teachers and family. But, as a senior, my situation is not ideal. 

For 12 years, my education has led up to the honor of walking the stage during graduation at Memorial Field. Previously, this year, the class of 2020 was informed that the stadium would not be available due to construction. This was very upsetting to my class, yet it is incomparable to the likelihood of not having a graduation at all. The close-knit local culture in Sandpoint makes events like this very meaningful, therefore even the thought of not walking the stage to receive my diploma is disappointing.

All things considered, missing out on these traditional events is inconvenient, but health and safety of our community is, and should be, everyone’s priority. The senior class of 2020 may have been dealt a hard hand this year; fortunately, our community is working their absolute hardest to make our year special. 

Personally, losing time with my classmates is tragic. However, I am thankful for our community and health care workers who are on the forefront fighting for us.

Jaxon Pettit

Since school has been canceled, I have not been to Sandpoint, as I live out of town. I have been to Coeur d’ Alene a few times, for doctor appointments and grocery trips, though. 

Obviously, as a high-school senior, I am used to driving into Sandpoint every day, and seeing all of my friends, fellow classmates and teachers multiple times a week. But at this point, due to the closing of schools and the stay-at-home orders, I haven’t seen any friends since the last day we were all at school. 

Jaxon Pettit. Courtesy photo.

I do not play a spring sport, so spring sports being canceled doesn’t affect me as much. I still enjoy going to the spring sporting events and watching, but now we won’t be able to do that. I can definitely sympathize with the dedicated athletes who play spring sports — especially seniors — who are having their (possibly final) season ripped away from them. That would be the absolute worst. 

Football has always been my main sport, and I and my team had a great season this year. Just thinking about if this coronavirus situation had happened in the fall instead makes me sad, because I would have missed out on all of the great memories, and the culmination of my years of hard work that took place this year. That is the reality that the seniors whose main sport happens in the spring are facing right now.

The spring time is probably my favorite time of the school year, for a few reasons. The year is almost over, and everyone is getting excited for summer and everyone starts planning their summer activities The ice and snow are melting, as the sun comes out and encourages everyone to get outside. Shorts and T-shirts return, and we can eat lunch outside. Classes start to wind down as we get ready for finals and AP tests. 

All of these things make the fourth quarter of the school year super enjoyable to me. Not to mention the activities that are unique to seniors, like senior sunset, senior pranks, senior skip day, prom and graduation. 

These are all things that I, along with most seniors, have been looking forward to since we were freshmen.

I can remember countless times at lunch when everyone at the table would be talking about what we should do for a senior prank. All of the fun ideas now look like they have no chance of materializing. 

Prom and graduation are two huge events that mark the end of your high-school years; a goodbye to all the friends we made along the way, and the close of a super-memorable four years of our youth. But now, these look unlikely to happen. 

After the school year is completed online, most of us seniors will never see each other again. This is something that happens to every class when they graduate, obviously, but not like this. We all had our last day without knowing it. 

So many of my friends who I thought I would get the chance to make more memories with are now a part of the past. 

Everyone looks forward to their last day of high school, because they know it will be their last. They know it will likely be fun and a little bit sad. But we don’t get to look forward to what our last days will be like. Instead, we look backward to our last days, without any knowledge that a random Monday would be the last time we went to Sandpoint High School.

Personally, I do not like distance learning nearly as much as going to school. I am someone who loves social interaction, and really enjoys being around other people I can bounce ideas off of. That is why I much rather prefer going to class in person and just having a good time with everyone while we learn. 

Taking away my favorite parts of school and leaving only my least favorite parts has been hard. 

The biggest positive that has come from distance learning is that I am for the most part on my own schedule. This means I can get ahead of schedule by doing the work that would come later in the week, or if I am busy doing something at home, I can usually do it the next day.

 I can usually get all of my work done for each day in less time that I would usually be at school, so that is a plus.

I think most high-schoolers are treating distance learning similarly to how I am — just trying to get everything done on time. 

In a time like this, when we are all doing our school work from home, it is super important to structure your own day and be efficient in getting things done.

At first it was hard to do that, but now I have a pretty good routine going, regarding getting my school work done.

I know that most students I’ve talked to don’t like distance learning nearly as much, for a lot of the same reasons I stated. Additionally, we are not able to go to class every day and interact with our teachers face-to-face. We can email them if we need help, but for a lot of students like myself, it’s just not the same. 

As for the stay-at-home order, most of my friends I have talked to recently have been following it pretty well. I haven’t heard of any big gatherings or hangouts going on, so that is good. I have seen some socially distanced gatherings on social media, though. 

For example, people are sometimes driving up to parking lots and talking to their friends while they stay in their cars. 

I think it’s cool to see people still finding ways to be around each other while still being safe. 

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