Online classes, canceled activities and uncertain futures: Life as a high schooler in a pandemic

By Sara Wangler, Guest Writer

Courtesy Sara Wangler
Students at Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, Illinois participate in a pep rally. Photo by Emma King.

Editor’s note: The Daily Egyptian is featuring articles written by guest writers to share more perspectives on the effects of COVID-19. This story was written by guest writer Sara Wangler, a senior at Harrisburg High School in Harrisburg, Illinois.

The state of Illinois shut down all schools as of March 16. This leaves hundreds of students and teachers at Harrisburg High School out of normal class settings, leaves senior students without prom or graduation and forces students out without saying goodbye to their peers, teachers and memories. 

Alongside extra activities and sporting events being canceled or postponed, school closings bring a new problem: teaching students from home. So how has Harrisburg managed? 

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Senior Madeleine DeNeal said some of her teachers have transitioned classes online to Zoom, a service that provides a platform for online meetings, but she has experienced issues while using it. 

“A few of my teachers have attempted to use Zoom, but it is difficult for me (due to my rural location) to receive the messages within such short notice,” DeNeal said. “Even then, with so many people in my house using the internet, keeping a connection is difficult.”

Junior Jake Hefner said aside from Zoom, teachers have been utilizing Google services to keep students motivated.

“It’s been a real learning experience to be honest,” Hefner said. “Google Classroom has really been a key factor in keeping all of us organized. All of my teachers have used the classroom and it’s been a really easy thing to adjust to.”

As a junior, Hefner’s biggest concern is the SAT.

“I’ve been really worried about the SAT since we’ve been closed,” Hefner said. “I haven’t heard any news about it. The SAT is such an important test now, it can really determine the future for a high school student so I’m curious to see what happens.”

As senior year approaches its end, it’s a bittersweet time, especially when it’s cut short according to senior soccer player Olivia Wilson.

“It has definitely been hard and has felt like such a big disappointment, but I’ve just tried to remind myself that God has got a plan and this has all happened for a reason,” Wilson said. 

Players involved in all spring sports are feeling the effects from closings and cancellations, according to senior baseball player Nick Hunter.

“The biggest obstacle is and has been trying to figure out what’s next,” Hunter said. “As baseball players, we continue playing throughout the summer and then start college ball in the fall. But nobody knows what’s going to happen or what’s next.”

The Friday after school was officially released was supposed to be Harrisburg High School’s performance of “Newsies.” Due to the closing, the performance has been postponed indefinitely according to senior Landon Gates, who plays Jack Kelly in the production.

“After spending hours on end in rehearsal for three months, waiting for that moment to get on the stage and show the crowd what you’ve worked so hard to be a part of, it’s hard not to be disappointed,” Gates said. “However, my view is that there are more important events going on in the world than my last high school show. If giving up my last show is the only option to fighting and preventing the spread of COVID-19, then I will gladly accept that and continue to pursue the bigger, potentially more rewarding experiences that are just around the corner.”

The most impactful cancellations will be prom and graduation according to senior and class president Sophie Winkleman. 

“At this point, I know just about as much as everyone else does,” Winkleman said. “I’m also just as heartbroken, if not even more so. Prom would be our last time to have fun together as a class. It’s always so exciting, and now it will most likely not get to happen. We work from our first day of kindergarten to our last day of senior year for one day. Graduation is a day of celebration and reflection on the last twelve years of our lives. To think that we might not get to experience that day is devastating for me.”

The hope is to go back before the school year is over according to Winkleman. 

“If that doesn’t happen, I hope that we’ll all be more thankful for school,” Winkleman said. “I know that I’ve taken it for granted in the past, but being away has made me realize how important it is to me, and I hope others will do the same.”

Amidst the chaos of closings and change, junior Ian Meshew has utilized social media in trying to promote social distancing and give information to fellow students.

“I would say that the biggest misconception is that it’s still ok to do normal things like visit friends, as long as you guys aren’t going anywhere in public,” Meshew said. “Regardless of anything, social distancing means not seeing anyone who isn’t a member of your household.”

Meshew has been doing his best to influence people but some just don’t listen. 

“Cases in our area will soar, and many people who are at risk could become seriously ill or unfortunately die,” Meshew said.

There seems to be confusion amongst the public according to Meshew. 

“I think people don’t social distance themselves because they don’t realize the seriousness of the situation,” Meshew said. “Many don’t understand that these guidelines are put into place to protect the people who are at risk. Even if you yourself aren’t, there are many people who count under the list of being at risk.”

To combat the spread, Meshew has been following protocol.

“I haven’t left my home at all, only to walk my dog,” Meshew said. “I’ve also been doing my best to spread factual information that will not only inform people, but also hopefully persuade them to stay inside and follow social distancing.”

Meshew’s main goal is to keep people safe.

“Good job for doing your part, keep up the good work,” Meshew said. “For people who aren’t, I would ask that you please adhere to those guidelines set out, as they are proven to actually save lives.”

Guest writer Sara Wangler is a student at Harrisburg High School and editor at the school’s newspaper, The Purple Clarion.

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