By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
Students and facility members across the Edmonds School District are collectively navigating the uncertainty of the effects of COVID-19 impacts on their final moments together.
The coronavirus pandemic has canceled and postponed the final moments of high school for the class of 2020, with prom and graduation ceremonies uncertain, and their involvement in spring sports and drama productions ending before they even began. Edmonds School District high school seniors, who expected their last months of school to be packed with rites of passages, set foot in their hallways for the last time this school year without knowing they wouldn’t return.
“It’s very sad and unexpected not knowing that was our last day,” stated Meadowdale High School senior Grace Bacik.
On March 13, all K-12 schools throughout the state of Washington temporarily closed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Schools were expected to reopen on April 24, but on April 6 Governor Inslee announced that all schools would remain closed for the remainder of the school year.
“I think that one thing that’s hard about this is when I was in school, I didn’t really always want to be there, but now that it’s gone, I miss it more than I ever have,” explained Bacik. “You don’t realize what you take for granted until it’s gone. It’s so weird to think that I’ll never walk the halls as a senior at Meadowdale again.”
Students say they understand closing schools is a necessity for preserving the health of the community and have accepted that missing out on their milestone moments plays an essential role in keeping COVID-19 from spreading.
“I feel like graduation might not happen, but at the same time people are losing their lives, so it’s not as important as that,” said Meadowdale High School senior and Student Activities Coordinator Jamie Christiansen.
The uncertainty of the status of the class of 2020’s graduation ceremony is unsettling for Meadowdale High School’s Principal David Shockley, who says he’s doing his best to keep families updated as they learn more and create plans amidst the unknowns. However, he wishes that he could provide a definite answer to students and their families.
“As a principal, what bothers me is that there are so many questions that I can’t answer and I like to answer things,” said Shockley. “I like to move things forward…but there are just no answers yet because it’s uncharted territory.”
Shockley is exploring different options as to how Meadowdale High School can hold graduation for the class of 2020. Right now, he’s considering the possibility of hosting a virtual ceremony if large gatherings continue to be prohibited by the set commencement date of June 23.
Bacik is trying to stay optimistic about an in-person ceremony and hopes that the school pushes the event into the summer, as she’s been looking forward to the day that she’d walk across the stage to receive her diploma since she started high school.
“For me, graduation is the hardest thing to miss,” said Bacik. “I think one of the biggest things for seniors, is when you step foot in that school freshman year, you’re already looking forward to graduation.”
The class of 2020 will also be unable to complete the school’s traditional gauntlet ceremony, where students walk through a tunnel of staff members going into their freshman year and repeat the process on their last day of senior year. Shockley says the final walk-through acts as a celebration of seniors thirteen years of hard work in the K-12 education system.
“There’s just a severe lack of closure,” explained senior Nate King. “There’s a lot of teachers that I have that mean a ton to me, and I won’t be able to say thank you to them in person.”
To begin to create a sense of conclusion and to encourage students to stay positive during this time of mass uncertainty, Meadowdale High School created a video montage from teachers for their seniors to remind them that they’re all in this together.
Shockley created his video submission in the school’s darkened senior cafe, where he says the sun was shining through at the end of a hallway behind him.
“I told kids that this is our metaphorical tunnel and there’s light at the end it,” said Shockley as he explained the meaning behind his message. “We just don’t know how long the tunnel is right now, but we can get through this together.”
Mountlake Terrace High School created a similar video message where teachers and staff waved at the camera synchronized with words of encouragement for their class of 2020. Principal Greg Schellenberg’s initiated the project and posted the video to his YouTube account after he talked with one of the school’s student leaders, who questioned if “anybody’s even thinking about us seniors.”
“Meanwhile, I knew in talking to teachers that was pretty much all we were thinking about, so there was that disconnect about how to get that message out,” continued Schellenberg.
“Communication can be hard… it’s hard to keep people up to date with where discussions are at, so there’s this void of information. I was just trying to fill it with some care and some love.”
Greg Schwab, Assistant Superintendent with the Edmonds School District provided a statement on how the district is handling decisions regarding graduation ceremonies at this time.
“At this time, we have not made an official decision about the 2020 graduation ceremonies for each of our high schools. We are waiting to see what happens with the Stay Home/Stay Safe orders from Governor Inslee, set to expire on May 4th,” Schwab said.
“While we understand it is likely that this will be extended, we are holding for a bit longer to see how things transpire before making any definitive plans to change our ceremonies to honor the class of 2020. We know how disappointing these final weeks must be for our seniors, and our Principals at each of our high schools are committed to ensuring that our seniors receive the celebrations and recognition they deserve,” he said.