Senior Year During a Pandemic

Under normal circumstances, your senior year in high school is one of the best years of your life. You are almost at the finish line, celebrating all of your accomplishments, relishing in being the ‘leaders’ of the school and looking forward to the future. But what happens when a pandemic changes that? We asked some local seniors to share how COVID-19 altered their Class of 2021 experience.

Sarah Renbaum, The Park School of Baltimore

From the time I started at Park School, I looked up to and envied each senior class. They ruled the school. So, if you told my five-year-old self that my senior year would be virtual with limited social interaction, I would never have believed it. But here it was – no epic first day of school and no homecoming entrance where the senior girls dance to their own song. No real opportunity to make my final mark on the school I attended for 13 years. Instead, I learned about flexibility and seeing the light in an otherwise dark situation. I experienced endless quality time with family, which I know I will cherish when I am away at college in a few short months. I experimented with new hobbies like cooking, tennis and even played competitive games of Fortnite with my brother. Most importantly, I learned how to adjust my expectations. Senior prom is happening, Covid style. Graduation will be in-person but smaller with no extended family. This was not the ultimate senior year I imagined, but my friends and I survived, thrived, and dare I say we may all look back and be better for the experience.

Brandon Schwartzberg, Pikesville High School

Senior year is supposed to be one of the best years of your life. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was unfortunately not the same. The school year started completely virtual, with learning being changed in so many ways. There wasn’t the same feeling of actual school, I had Wednesdays off, and the classes were shortened into only two quarters instead of four. No hanging out and talking with friends, no senior tailgate gatherings, no watching football games and no pep rallies. In April, I was finally able to go back into the building for hybrid learning. I learned in the school, face-to-face with teachers (while wearing a mask), but only two days a week. I thought that would bring more normalcy, but it really didn’t. There were at max six students in a classroom, and learning was still online. The teachers still had to teach virtually for those not in-person, so there still wasn’t a feeling of true teaching occurring. We sat in a classroom, learning on our computer screens – just as if we were home. For lunch, instead of there being benches where we could all hang out together, there were individual desks, and for the most part I was not allowed to leave my seat, so it was hard to talk to friends. I was yearbook editor, but how can you fill the pages of a yearbook when experiences and activities are virtual? As captain of the tennis team, I was glad at least we could play this year, when last year we lost that opportunity entirely. Though with only limited schools having ‘playing pods,’ our season became much shorter. Prom was cancelled, which was a huge letdown since that is such a staple of high school life. Graduation is also going to be different, as there will only be two tickets given to graduates. The COVID-19 pandemic forced so many things to be different. With changed learning, restricted sports, no traditional prom and a limited graduation attendance, this year was one like no other. Definitely not the senior year I had always hoped and planned for. My hope is this experience only made me stronger as an individual, something that I’ll bring with me as I start the next exciting college chapter of my life.

Shayna Levin, Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School

On Friday, March 13, 2020, my junior year of high school changed abruptly. One minute I was in school, enjoying time with my friends, and the next, we were being sent home for two weeks due to rising concerns about a global COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, we were kind of excited, thinking this wasn’t going to be a big deal and this time was going to give us somewhat of an extended spring break. We thought we’d return to school, and everything would be back to ‘normal.’  Wow, were we wrong! Two weeks turned into the remainder of the school year, and nothing in life would be ‘normal’ as we knew it prior to that notable Friday the 13th. Among many things, COVID-19 forced students to be apart and begin learning remotely, both of which were difficult adjustments. Fortunately, everyone at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School worked tirelessly to quickly acclimate to using Zoom and Schoology so we could get back to the high-quality level of learning to which we are accustomed. While being away from friends and teachers in school was disappointing enough, not being able to have our junior prom or other end-of-year festivities was even more upsetting. 

However, I am beyond grateful and happy to say that, thanks to our incredible Director of Education, Dr. Zipora Schorr, our senior year was nothing like the end of junior year! Through Dr. Schorr’s unwavering determination and prioritization of our safety, we were able to return to school, in person, just in time for the start of our senior year in September. By taking necessary precautions, we were able to remain in person for the duration of our school year and we’re now able to enjoy some of the exciting senior festivities that we thought COVID might take away. Although they may not look like they would have pre-pandemic, we’ll still get to enjoy our senior prom, Shabbaton, a camping trip, and an in-person graduation with some of our family members in attendance! I’m so thankful for my time at BT and everything they’ve done to give all of us the best school year that anyone could hope for under the circumstances. Todah rabah, Beth Tfiloh!

If you or your student are having feelings of depression or just need to speak to someone during these challenging times, please reach out to Jewish Community Services (JCS)

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