Two Heights students describe concerns and hopes

Zelda Thayer-Hansen, a Heights High junior, completes some schoolwork online.

If you’d asked CH-UH students two months ago what they thought would make the end of the school year memorable, they wouldn’t have envisioned this.

They might have said they’d be wrapping up their favorite classes with creative projects and presentations. They might have anticipated playing on school sports teams, taking part in spring plays and performances, or enjoying end-of-the-year activities like field trips and class picnics.

Since Gov. Mike DeWine closed all Ohio schools on March 12 due to the coronavirus, all of those activities are up in the air. [As of this writing,] nobody knows if schools will reopen before the scheduled end of the school year, or even return to a normal schedule next fall.

The uncertainty is weighing heavily on young members of the CH-UH community. With only a few days’ notice, students had to abruptly shift to online learning. As experts debate when precautions can be safely lifted, students have no idea when, or even if, they’ll return to their classrooms.

“I’m worried about missing out on school experiences and the end of my junior year in-person,” said Zelda Thayer-Hansen, a Heights High junior.

Especially hard-hit by the uncertainty are Heights High’s seniors. The end of senior year is a famously boisterous time—with class celebrations, prom, graduation, and more.

“Everything that was worth looking forward to has been up in the air,” said senior Laynie Gosselin. She listed things she’s missing: senior projects, choir performances, her senior solo audition, her part in Heights High’s production of As You Like It, prom, and even—perhaps—walking across the stage for graduation.

Even the day-to-day social life that Heights High provides has been affected. “Isolation from friends and family has made senior year lonelier than I ever pictured,” Gosselin said. She’s not sure what the future will bring.

As students grapple with uncertainty, they are still expected to complete a full load of schoolwork. For Thayer-Hansen, with an intense academic schedule that comprises five AP classes, her virtual-school experience includes five or more hours of work daily. “I rarely have extra time to prepare study materials and watch extra AP help videos,” she noted.

Thayer-Hansen is finding online learning a challenge, as it doesn’t involve live engagement with teachers. Most teachers post assignments on online forums, but don’t hold virtual class sessions. “I am an extremely visual and hands-on learner, and this separation has been difficult,” Thayer-Hansen said. For many, independent work simply isn’t as engaging as in-person classes with teachers. Gosselin admits that it’s “easier to procrastinate or ignore assignments” when everything is online, and  she misses the energy and camaraderie of in-person school.

Despite the challenges, Gosselin is choosing to adopt a positive attitude about the crisis. “I got very lucky that we were not hit with it sooner,” she said. She’s grateful that she was able to complete her fourth year on the swim team before schools closed.

Thayer-Hansen is looking ahead to the future, feeling proud of coping with the crisis, and wiser because of the lessons her perseverance through unexpected circumstances taught her. “I hope that the new AP-testing methods will prove that at-home learning is possible, and that I can get through changing learning environments,” she said.

Gosselin agrees that good times lie ahead, and that the virus’s disruptions won’t change the things that matter most to her. “I will be over everything I’m missing out on soon enough,” she said. “Pushing forward toward college, and dodging all the obstacles, is much more important to me than the moments I will be missing. Coronavirus won’t change who my friends are, it will only make the times we spend together afterward more special and important.”

Maple Buescher

Maple Buescher is a junior at Heights High who is studying this semester at the High Mountain Institute (now remotely). At Heights, she is a member of the symphony orchestra and soccer team.

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Volume 13, Issue 5, Posted 11:29 AM, 04.30.2020