The Class of COVID-19

Story by Ben Fyke, Staff Writer/Editor/Social Media Manager

On March 13th, 2020, I walked the halls of Stonington High School for the last time as a student.

When our principal activated the intercom at 1:50 PM on that day, the student body awaited the news of which most knew unofficially. The school would be shut down for a minimum of two weeks, Mr. Friese said, but likely extended with updated guidance from public health officials.

No one knew it at the time, but this “indefinite” closure of Stonington Public Schools would extend through the end of the academic year. The last few months of my senior year fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic that had only begun ravaging the United States at that time.

My classmates and I returned to school, albeit virtually, two weeks after the statewide school shutdown. We were suddenly inundated with Google Classroom assignments and Google Meet invitations. In a matter of weeks, our academic life was transferred from traditional, in-person instruction to a vastly different virtual model.

To say the coronavirus crisis upended my senior year is an understatement. Although I have personally adjusted well, there is no denying I have missed out on a multitude of events that should have defined the second half of my senior year. Inductions, proms, and awards nights were moved online or outright canceled. Most of all, the Class of 2020 was robbed of a traditional graduation ceremony on the football field.

Of course, these events were canceled justifiably in the name of public health. Current Connecticut state guidelines provide for gatherings of no more than five people, and this number only increases to fifty by approximately June 20th and one-hundred in an undefined “Phase 3.” Holding a prom with hundreds of people packed into a ballroom, for example, would have been irresponsible and detrimental to the goal of flattening the curve. 

At the same time, though, my classmates and I are still missing out on what we were always told would be the best part of our high school careers. A drive-in graduation ceremony is just not the same as walking across the football field, no matter which way you look at it. A “Zoom prom” is not the same as sharing the dance floor with your classmates for the final time.

I have also seen this pandemic through a different lens– that of a grocery store employee. I have worked at Stop & Shop for nearly two years, and working through the biggest public health challenge in nearly one hundred years is not exactly what I signed up for. I have watched toilet paper fly off the shelves, customers blame me and my coworkers for food shortages. I have truly seen it all during these past couple months, and it has given me a new perspective.

In one word, the Class of 2020 is frustrated. We are upset that none of our senior events can be held, but we understand the circumstances and reasons why we have to miss out. We are upset we cannot spend this precious time with our friends, but we understand that social distancing is paramount in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and returning to normal life. If nothing else, our senior year will always be remembered for being accompanied by a pandemic and history will celebrate us in its own special way.