When COVID-19 caused shut-downs in March 2020, I was a sophomore in high school thinking, “Two weeks of vacation time!” I never thought I would worry about things getting shut down during my senior year too.
In September of this school year, Grand County High School shut down for one week when so many teachers had COVID that there were not enough substitute teachers to cover classes. I do color guard in the marching band; we missed our first competition because we were not able to practice the week leading up to it. Other activities and sports have been canceled throughout the year due to high numbers of COVID cases in Grand County or among opposing teams. Recently the swim team decided not to attend a meet because multiple members of an opposing team had COVID. With the state swim competition just a few weeks away, this was a hard decision for the coaches to make.
The 2020-21 school year was, by far, the farthest from a “normal” school year. There were many protocols in place designed to keep students safe while still being able to participate in sports and other events. Sports teams were being tested every other week, there was an online option for school, classes were spread out to have fewer people, masks were required at all times, and some hallways in the building were designated as one-way. This made it harder to get to classes on time, especially if there were classes upstairs. After the vaccine was approved for high school students, the school auditorium was used as a vaccination clinic site. There were many students who chose to get vaccinated so they were able to do sports with less worry.
This school year looks more like it did before the pandemic started, although there was a mask mandate in place until after students got back from winter break. There are still plenty of protocols in place, such as plexiglass shields in the front office and excused absences for COVID. Teachers and staff are more flexible when it comes to turning in missing work if a student had or was exposed to COVID.
For the graduating class of 2022, this is our third year dealing with COVID. Although life has somewhat returned to normal, high school students still live in fear of events being canceled. If a student is exposed to COVID, they will have to quarantine unless they are vaccinated. This causes students to miss events, even if they don’t directly have COVID. For seniors, this is particularly hard because it is our last year in high school and we want as many opportunities as possible. There are many students who participate in sports in high school but won’t continue after graduation. The stakes are higher if an event gets canceled senior year because there’s a possibility that a student will never be able to do that particular sport or event again.
Although my high school years look a lot different than I thought they would, it has become the new normal and I have gotten used to it. I have almost forgotten what it is like not to live in fear of sports and activities being canceled. Not all events are being canceled—student athletes will likely still have the chance to compete in multiple competitions. The world is getting better at working around COVID and finding a good compromise to let students have normal lives while still being safe.