By: Isabella Oballo

I was driving to school on Friday, March 13, 2020, when my phone started blowing up with texts from friends and emails from school. School had been canceled because of COVID-19. Not knowing the impact of what was happening, I spent the rest of the day with my friends; we bought snacks, watched some movies, played Minecraft, and went out to dinner at a nearby burger joint. On the car ride back we all collectively realized that Thursday, March 12, 2020, could have been our last day of real school. As a senior, it was difficult to fully process that my last year of high school may have been cut short.

We sat outside near a patch of bluebonnets and talked about all of the lasts we may have already had, and worst of all, the canceled events in the near future. I have been a part of the Women’s Lacrosse team at my school for the past four years and was voted as a captain for my final year. We had just played our first district game two days before and won 17-8 against our rival team. I wish I had known that could have been my last high school lacrosse game. I am also involved in the music department/program at school, we put on two concerts every year and we have been preparing for our spring concert (my last one) since early February. I may never get to perform again with my band and experience the special tradition of the senior song at the end of the concert. There are so many unknowns and lots of “lasts” that I’m not sure I’ll get to experience.

My fingers are crossed that regular school starts up again on April 6. But, for now, I will start online school on March 23. Many emails have been sent concerning the expectations of students and teachers, as we all make adjustments to distant learning from the comfort of our own homes. Most, if not all, of my teachers, are now using Zoom to stay connected and have a class with their students. My school has created a distant learning plan, answering all of the questions students and parents may have before starting school again. They are letting students check out computers from their school if they don’t have access to one at home. A recent email included options for discounted internet access. Just the other morning I had a meeting with my music teacher and our music leadership team to discuss possible alternatives to a spring concert if we are unable to have our normally scheduled concert. We also brainstormed ideas for at-home lessons for the music classes. Music podcasts, band conferences, weekly open mic video concerts, etc., are all possibilities for the lessons to come for our online music classes.

During this difficult time, I think the most frustrating part for many of the seniors (and students in general) is the lack of real-life interactions. Although our generation is one of computer and phone screens, the relationships we have at school are a break from constantly being blinded by the blue light on our desks or in our pocket. For me, high school has been nothing short of amazing. I have made the most of so many opportunities, extracurriculars, classes, and friendships over these four years. After working hard for so long it’s disheartening to know my school days are starting to look different. Making the best of it (while being socially distant), we went out one last time over the weekend to practice lacrosse, go hiking, and geocaching. Being socially distant also has its perks! My nights are spent playing Minecraft and chatting on Discord with a big group of friends. We’ve made a little neighborhood with our 10 houses and we get on phone calls every night to talk to each other. It’s a nice way for us to stay connected and see each other even though it isn’t in real life. I’ve gotten to cook a lot more since being stuck in the house, there are lots of fun recipes on TikTok that I can finally get around to making. I love crafts, so I’ve also started painting and making friendship bracelets again. There’s also a lot of free time for me to work on college scholarships and think about my college decisions!

It’s been hard making everything in life digital in a short amount of time. Though I feel as if my school community has made a great effort to make this transition as easy as possible for students and staff. My aforementioned music meeting helped me understand how classes would look for the time being and given me confidence in the way our teachers are going to help students. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I am thankful to live in a society where online and distance learning is readily available to many students, though it has also made me more appreciative of my ability to go to school every day and interact with the students and staff around me.

But this is just the beginning, I’ll let you know how my first week of online school goes!

Getting Smart has launched the Getting Through series to support educators, leaders, and families on the path forward during such an uncertain time. This series will provide resources and inspiration as we face long term school closures, new learning environments, and address equity and access from a new lens. Whether you are just getting started with distance or online learning, or you’ve had plans in place and have the opportunity to share your work and guidance with others, there is a place for your voice and an opportunity to learn.

We’re going to get through this together, and we invite you to join us. Please email Editor@GettingSmart.com with any questions or content you’d like considered for publication. We also invite you to join the conversation and on social media using #GettingThrough.

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Isabella Oballo is a high school senior in Austin, Texas.

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