COVID-19 forces an early end to seniors’ high school experience


Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, school has been canceled for the rest of the year, and many seniors are saying their last goodbyes from home. Photo by Melanie Patterson, used with permission.

High school is not only a place to learn but a place where people make many of their closest friendships, mature and experience the last years of being a teenager. For seniors, their chance to make a few more memories before saying their final goodbye has been cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On April 3, the Rocklin Unified School District announced the closure of all schools extending through the 2019-20 school year. The possibility of a graduation ceremony for seniors is uncertain. Principal Mr. Justin Cutts said the district is considering a survey of options so families have a chance to provide input. Whitney and Rocklin will follow the same plan, whatever and whenever it takes place.

“I was really looking forward to graduation, mainly because that would be my last big goodbye to the school. I’ve been at Whitney for the past four years of my life, and it only seems appropriate if the seniors get a good ‘goodbye.’ This school is where I’ve grown the most, and I’m an introvert, so it can be a little bit challenging for me to hang out with others outside of school, so that’s what I’m going to miss most,” Victoria Quaranta said.

As this unpredictability grows with time, seniors are anticipating what will happen next.

“With the uncertainty of graduation, I know in my heart that Whitney will find a way to make it happen because that’s just a life experience for people. There’s no way we’re not going to have a graduation, there’s no way we won’t graduate officially and have that ceremony,” Martin Topacio said.

Along with the cancellation of classes, spring sports were on the brink of beginning their official league seasons, and Senior Ball was only a month away, both big events for those graduating this year. 

“It really sucks that school is canceled because I’ve worked so hard [and now I will] never experience some of the best parts of high school. Track getting canceled was hard enough, but knowing I might never be able to walk the stage with my peers or experience Senior Ball is too sad to think about,” Mason Pangman said.

In order to make things more normal in this abnormal situation, teachers are continuing to supply students with work in order to keep them engaged, which is being done online through distance learning.

“The online learning is a bit challenging because I struggle with staying focused, and so when I’m sitting at home it’s pretty easy for me to get distracted, versus when I’m at school and I’m talking to a teacher. I still get distracted wherever I am, but when I’m sitting with other people who are doing the same work as me, it’s easier for me to stay focused,” Quaranta said.

Some students find distance-learning difficult, while for others, online schooling is straightforward and manageable. 

“The online distance learning is pretty easy for me. I just put [my assignments] all off until the end of the week because I only have like three classes, and I get the work done in like no time at all. Especially being a senior and not really having that many classes where you really have to do work, it’s not too difficult,” Topacio said.

Because of the social distancing policies recommended, many students are staying inside and away from those who are not immediate family rather than spending their final months as seniors socializing.

“It’s been really hard because my mom has a compromised immune system, so I haven’t been able to go out or see anyone since this whole thing started. I FaceTime my friends, though, almost every night to keep me sane,” Pangman said.

I made the senior video because I wanted to portray the message that even though everyone’s stories and memories are different, we are all seniors and share the same emotions during this time.

— Ethan Dodge

With the cancellation of school, Ethan Dodge created a video showcasing seniors’ memories from Del Oro, Rocklin and Whitney to remind them of their last year in high school and that they all are not alone in this situation.

“I wanted the idea of having everyone, no matter where you come from, send me videos of their own high school experience, the impact being that our schools become closer and seniors are one,” Dodge said. 

Although having lost their last moments of high school, seniors all across the U.S. are facing the same circumstances and are trying to stay positive. High school may be over, but seniors’ journeys toward the next stage of their lives is just beginning.

To help recognize seniors during this unique time, Whitney High Student Media is running a Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight feature each day on Instagram @detailsyearbook.