The Stolen Semester

Seniors find time to have fun and stay studious in the era of mass quarantine; Photo Credit: Ben Rose '20

Seniors find time to have fun and stay studious in the era of mass quarantine; Photo Credit: Ben Rose '20

“I just wanted a senior year.” Every time I talk to my friends through Discord, Facetime or Instagram, this phrase inevitably makes an appearance. Seniors are bummed. According to Dr. Cannon, we’re an “exceptional class,” so much so that he hasn’t had to threaten to take away our senior privileges to get us to shape up, unlike past years. The Class of 2020 is truly a special one. Our students are preparing to attend top universities across the nation, they play on some of the best sports teams, and they include among them some of the brightest students in the city. Many of our classmates, mine included, transferred out of SHC to go to other schools, leaving our friend groups, and the whole class of 2020, depleted. Senior year has been nothing but a massive struggle — at first we struggled to conquer the game of college admissions, then to keep our grades up for the mid-year report card, and finally to try to fight off senioritis in the third quarter. We expected to relax and make lasting memories during the final quarter of senior year. We didn’t expect massive school shutdowns, AP test uncertainty, massive economic collapse, and the threat of a significant portion of the population, including our loved ones, being killed by a new mysterious virus. The issue is not simply that us seniors don’t get to experience our final semester; it’s that it was stolen by Covid-19. 

“But it’s not all bad. Every cloud has a silver lining. The reason we’re staying home is incredibly noble and speaks to the goodness of humanity.”

But it’s not all bad. Every cloud has a silver lining. The reason we’re staying home is incredibly noble and speaks to the goodness of humanity. That so many people are self-quarantining and complying with social distancing guidelines is wonderful. We still talk to our friends, albeit not in person, showing the wonderful sense of community that SHC is known for. The fact that we make the effort to communicate in the first place sets us apart from other schools and communities. Our bonds are so strong that even in a time of crisis, we all continue to reach out and work with each other. Our teachers have been very receptive to our feedback, actually changing their lesson plans to better cope with the current times and the expectations put on seniors (and all the other classes). And, for all their faults, the SHC administration has done something truly remarkable — they’re trying to make graduation happen at a later date this summer, instead of outright canceling it. This might work, because after social distancing, we’re set to move to a more targeted strategy of virus containment. In a time of crisis, we’ve come together and built an even stronger community. 

As much as Covid-19 has ruined our senior experience, it could be a lot worse. The San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley area (which extends as far south as South San Francisco in the west, Fremont in the east, and as far north as Richmond) is the second-most dense metropolitan area in the United States, after New York City, and we have had less than 5000 cases for over 4 weeks, with a growth rate slower than most other major cities. That’s remarkable, and it’s thanks to everyone in the Bay Area, including SHC students. Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York City did not shut down his city’s public schools until the virus had multiplied beyond control. Look what’s happening in Miami, where spring breakers and a badly-timed election gave thousands of people coronavirus. Look at New Orleans, where revelers partied out in the streets for mardi gras, under no supervision by the local government,  and the city and surrounding parishes now have more than 10,000 cases. San Francisco, and SHC, did a smart thing by ordering us to shelter-in-place before the worst came. We can beat this virus, we just need to unify and stay home. This is critical and applies to everyone who doesn’t need to go out. Recently, my Instagram feed has been full of a few people who decide to meet with others in defiance of social distancing. That’s an incredibly unsafe and selfish thing to do; even if you think it’s fine, the CDC and WHO (bodies of experts with years of training and the support of scientific data) have said it’s not, that you’re putting yourself and all members of your community at risk. Do not risk it with coronavirus. 

So, seniors, I get that we’re bummed. I’m super bummed too. We’ve worked so hard and we’re seeing no payoff. It’s okay to be bummed about senior year, but at the same time we need to recognize the good in what we’re doing, how many lives we are saving by staying home and washing hands, and how our sacrifices will allow other classes to prosper. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, we just need to wait and stay bored in our rooms. We might actually need to wait a little longer than told; flattening the curve sufficiently also spreads out the amount of time the pandemic is active. In the meantime, reach out to a friend who you haven’t talked to in a while, bake (although sparingly, as to save flour), play some video games (try Minecraft if you haven’t already), and keep doing schoolwork. We need to show that in these times of trouble and hardship, we stand strong and steadfast. We will talk to our friends, we will attend our classes no matter how boring they get, and we will show off SHC’s sense of community until the end. We are the SHC Class of 2020, and we will not let Covid-19 steal our dignity.