Early graduation poses challenges during COVID-19

Early graduation poses challenges during COVID-19

Sarah Bailey, Staff Reporter

Thanks to COVID-19, student life is looking very different, from proms, concerts and assemblies to 6-foot social distancing, which made these impossible. The graduation ceremony for early graduates is also looking quite different. It takes place on Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. in the main Gym.  Administrative Assistant Kathryn Black stated that limiting guests allowed to attend, having safety protocols in place and the ceremony’s taking place in Gym are just some of the differences in this year’s winter graduation.

According to Black, the safety precautions in place include “social distancing, masks, limited attendance, but we will follow whatever the District protocol is to ensure students are as safe as possible.”

One of the early graduates planning to attend the winter graduation ceremony is senior Larry Jennings. He said that his plans were just some of many that changed because of COVID-19. 

“I was planning on going to PTC after I graduate, but because of COVID, I will be taking a gap year,” he said. 

Jennings had been planning to graduate early since the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, so the pandemic is not the reason he is finishing school at the end of this semester. While his plans have not changed drastically, the changes to school this year will still make a big difference in his immediate future. Jennings stated that he was having more trouble in school because of COVID-19. 

“Learning online just isn’t the same. I can’t grasp what I’m learning as easily as in-person,” he said.

“Even in-person school is very different from what I’m used to. Masks are required on campus, we have desk shields, and there’s arrows on the floor telling you which direction to go,” he added. Even with all of those precautions, close gatherings are not perfectly safe. Jennings said he knew multiple students who still caught the virus. 

Jennings also stated that graduation is more complicated and harder than normal. 

“With COVID going around, there is going to be a smaller limit of people at the graduation ceremony. This means I can’t invite everyone I planned to invite, and people I love will have to miss a very important part of my life,” he said.

LDHS has yet to determine if it will be possible for students’ friends and family to virtually attend the winter graduation ceremony, but the school has not streamed it in previous years. There is a limit of five guests per graduate; normally they have no limit since the mid-year graduation has a smaller crowd. 

COVID-19 is not the only thing that is changing students’ minds about graduating early, however. Senior Ross Sinclair said that work life was something that also affected his after-high school decisions. He said that COVID-19 changed his career goals. 

“I asked myself questions before COVID-19 and told myself I was going to be a physical therapist. Then COVID hit; a lot of crap happened to me. Then I decided my goal [was] to become a UPS driver, and now I work at Pizza Hut,” Sinclair said. He said he had also planned on attending college before COVID, but he did not want to anymore because he has been going to work at 3 a.m. every Monday since Thanksgiving week. He ended up liking his job more than school. 

Sinclair said his biggest struggle with school this year has been “being online and working — working during the hours school is and being tired — therefore missing my classes and instruction. I tried very hard this year. I will be lucky if anything changes for the better for me,” he said. “I hoped for a normal senior year, but this isn’t at all what I define as normal. However, it has been an interesting experience and chapter in my life.”

As for the actual graduation ceremony, Sinclair said he never planned on walking, but he is not scared of crowds during COVID-19.

Students’ lives are looking very different, and high school a very important part of growing up. Graduation may not look the same as other years, but essentially, it is still the same event. For early graduates, it is time to get their diplomas and start college — or whatever their plans may be. COVID-19 should not change their entire futures; it is only temporary.