For many students in and around Boca Raton, the extended school closures that have resulted from the ongoing coronavirus crisis aren’t a cause for celebration.
As we’ve scrambled to shop at depleted grocery stores and watched the stock markets plummet, the voices of a younger generation, one that’s being impacted by these unimaginable developments in its own unique way, are being lost in the shuffle.
Boca magazine spoke to seniors from Boca Raton Community High School and Florida Atlantic University, and a Palm Beach County high school teacher, about the impact that school closures are having on local students.
“When we first got off school I was obviously excited,” said Boca High senior Natalie Lopez. “I’m already a senior, and I have that ‘senioritis’ feeling, and I didn’t really want to be at school. But now, it’s just kind of a bummer in a sense. We just have a month where we don’t have our same schedule, and being a senior, I feel cheated out of what I was supposed to get for the end of the year.”
Oliver Beardsley, also a senior at Boca High, shared a similar sentiment. “Personally, I’m missing school a lot right now. For one, it’s just sheer boredom. There’s not a lot going on right now. I’m trying to stay home and restrict myself from going out in public, but it’s hard to not be able to go out and do things.”
When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced the extension of school closures and the cancellation of all standardized testing through the end of the academic year, he added that students would have the option to repeat their current grade next year. Not surprisingly, that option didn’t seem to appeal to these high school seniors.
“To me, I feel like your senior year is only good one time,” Lopez shared. “I feel like the most important part was my first semester, grade-wise, and if I were to repeat that I’d just put more stress on myself. I already got into the college that I wanted to go to, so I feel like it’d just be more pressure on me for no reason.”
Boca High senior Harper Tindell had a different perspective on the closures. “I feel like if I were in any other grade, I would be [happy that school is cancelled,] but because of the timing and senior year, it’s definitely not the best. But ultimately I feel like it’s much safer, and I have more peace of mind.”
The extreme measures that have been taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus have led to equally unusual circumstances for these students. In any other academic year, it would be hard to believe that seniors would be longing to spend time in their classrooms. This, however, is no ordinary school year.
“I mean, before I was kinda just cruising through, just trying to get done. But now that it’s been taken away, it’s made me appreciate what I had before,” Beardsley shared. “I’m missing it. I kinda wish I had that time with my classmates and the things that you do in school that you take for granted every day. It made me appreciate that stuff more.
“I hope I can get at least a few more weeks in school. I’m not really counting on it, but I’m hopeful that things like graduation and prom may still actually happen.”
These seniors aren’t just missing out on the end of their academic year, but on the events that are often touted as rewards for achieving a diploma. Prom, “Grad Night” trips and graduation ceremonies are all events that are on the chopping block in an effort to promote social distancing.
“Going to Boca High for the past four years, we saw all the other kids that got to do those things. All the older kids that you’d become friends with, you saw how much they enjoyed it,” Lopez said of the senior events that she and the rest of her class will likely miss out on. “Everyone was looking forward to prom, and now it looks like we won’t get that either, and it just sucks. Plain and simple.”
Jon Hansen, a high school teacher with Palm Beach County schools, believes that the impact will be the greatest on his senior students.
“I know as far as just the social impact, it’s got to be devastating for a lot of these kids. A lot of them have been wanting to go to prom, and obviously that’s cancelled. All of the end-of-the-year trips have been cancelled, like Grad Bash, which is something that I was probably looking forward to the most when I was a senior in high school. I can only imagine how they’re feeling now that they’re not going to be able to spend one last trip with a lot of their friends, who they may not see after they go off to different colleges.
“Fortunately, most of the seniors have gotten their acceptance letters from their colleges already, so I don’t see these testing concerns impacting them too much in terms of getting into schools. I think it’s going to be more of a social impact on them than it will be academic.”
FAU senior Allison Ferrante, who won’t be able to accept her diploma in a coronation ceremony at the end of this spring semester, shared the sentiments of the high schoolers who are disappointed to end their senior year this way.
“I’m feeling pretty defeated. I’m getting cheated out of my four-year experience. I got 3.6 years. I didn’t get to finish my last classes.
“This is the last time I’ll be able to really be in school. I just wish I could have had closure.”
Though the general attitude among the students we spoke to was disappointment over the cancellation of year-end events, Tindell succinctly injected a bit of levity into the conversation:
“I haven’t gone stir crazy yet, but I’m sure that once I do I’ll be very eager to be back in school and I’ll be a lot more grateful when I am.”
“My peers’ lack of worry concerns me,” she shared. “It seems like a lot of people don’t understand that if they’re cancelling school, it’s just so that we’re not in big crowds. So when I see people having these massive boat days and parties, it kinda shocks me that they’re not having second thoughts to being in crowds like that, when they’re obviously taking such extreme measures with this whole thing.”
“I’d rather be safe than have all these events.”