Column: Being a high school senior in the time of COVID-19

On+March+13%2C+Archer%E2%80%99s+final+day+in+session+on+campus+for+the+foreseeable+future%2C+the+majority+of+the+senior+class+gathered+on+the+front+veranda+for+lunch+to+cherish+their+increasingly+limited+time+together.+After+eating%2C+laughing+and+even+crying%2C+the+girls+snapped+a+picture+at+the+front+of+campus+to+commemorate+their+last+day+for+a+while+as+a+group.+

Ava Rothenberg

On March 13, Archer’s final day in session on campus for the foreseeable future, the majority of the senior class gathered on the front veranda for lunch to cherish their increasingly limited time together. After eating, laughing and even crying, the girls snapped a picture at the front of campus to commemorate their last day for a while as a group.

By Gracie Wilson, Archer School for Girls

This past week, LAUSD and the majority of Los Angeles independent schools canceled classes for at least two weeks to allay COVID-19 apprehension and prevent virus spread. In these upcoming weeks of remote learning, I will join thousands of high schoolers citywide in an experiment of social distancing. 

In this epoch of mass hysteria, each person has their own index of individual inconveniences and fears: company bankruptcy, flight cancellations, lack of toilet paper at the supermarkets — the list goes on. I acknowledge that the chief concern at the moment is virus contraction and spread (and you can trust me when I say I acknowledge this — I have been dousing my hands in so much water and soap, it’s as if they are on fire). That being said, I have personally been most preoccupied with how school cancellations are affecting my senior year. 

As I have navigated my high school career, or at least given off the appearance of doing so, the various established Archer traditions like the Maypole dance and One Book have served as constants. These traditions have guided me through the years and given me something to always look forward to. And perhaps the time of Archer studenthood which is most concentrated with traditions and long-awaited events is the final stretch of senior year. From prom and senior week to graduation and senior recognition, the tail end of Archer life is filled to the brim with a number of heavily anticipated traditions. 

Though the current school cancellation dates (March 16 – March 27) don’t include any of these senior traditions, the current global pandemic is in such a state of flux that there is no way to be sure of our arrival date back on campus. 

A week ago, I never would have predicted this — remote learning, self-quarantining and social distancing. Heck, a week ago, I had never even heard of this terminology. It is therefore impossible for me to predict what will happen in another week or another month. The frightening possibility that President Trump’s warning to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people could last until the end of the school year, rendering the long list of remaining traditions nonexistent, breaks my heart. I worry that I’ve had my last in-person class of high school and didn’t even know it.

For years, I have watched seniors before me in their final walk of Archer life and fantasized about my very own. I have imagined which songs I will play as my classmates and I jump into the notorious Archer fountain and dreamt about what college sweatshirt I will be wearing on May 1, National Decision Day. There is so much expectation and longing built into Archer’s senior traditions. Should I miss out on these rituals, I will feel as if I am losing a rite of passage and a connection to past Archer graduates. 

Of course, I mustn’t get too melodramatic and sentimental quite yet (it’s my natural tendency… I apologize!). After all, not much can be known for sure about the state of the coronavirus outbreak in the coming months. But this level of unpredictability is what makes the current situation so darn difficult. Swarmed with doubt and uncertainty, I am unsure how to grieve and prepare for potential future disappointments. 

As I spend the upcoming weeks at home, communicating with my teachers through Zoom, knowing there is not much I can do to change the fate of a global epidemic, I will naturally miss the Archer campus and worry about the remainder of my senior year, yet I will try my hardest to — and I’m sorry if I sound like a cheesy yogi when saying this — remain present. 

Luckily enough, my grade has set up a grade-wide GroupMe chat (A.K.A. the ruckus we cause on campus hasn’t disappeared – it has just been moved online), so I will never feel too removed from Archer. When communicating with my fellow girls on fire, the people who constitute my Archer experience and ground me to earth, I will be able to feel, at least for a moment, as if everything is normal and the mass frenzy is only a distant memory.

This story was originally published on The Oracle on March 18, 2020.