Shelton high seniors philosophical about what they’re missing
SHELTON — On March 12, Jessica Wurms’ year had been a whirlwind of excitement, from helping build a robot with her robotics club teammates to readying for prom and graduation.
One day later, school was closed until further notice in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now a month later, Wurms and fellow seniors in Shelton and across the country are facing the end of their high school careers without the chance to celebrate many of the milestones they had come to expect.
“This is the culmination of my senior year … stuck at home, doing schoolwork through a computer,” said a disappointed Wurms.
“All activities shut down, the work put towards them wasted,” she added. “The robot my team spent two months building only competed at a single competition, and some teams didn’t get to compete at all.”
The athletic fields remain empty, all spring sports postponed. School stages are silent as musicals, including the award-winning drama club’s Rock of Ages: High School Edition, are on hold. The future of prom and graduation remain in doubt.
Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered all schools closed until at least April 20. But with coronavirus cases expected to spike in Fairfield County over the next two weeks, evidence is mounting that schools will remain closed until fall.
“Graduation, prom and one last sports season … I have looked forward to these senior year experiences for so long,” said SHS senior Michael Brown, a member of the varsity boys volleyball team. “To consider that they may not happen — it stings a little, to say the least.”
For all students, life has become staying home, playing games with family, FaceTiming with friends and distance learning, they said.
“I just want to thank our teachers for all their hard work and encouragement during this tough time,” said senior Matt McGee, a former candidate for Board of Aldermen and active member of the city’s political scene.
“If you want to know why student achievement scores in the district are above average despite such little funding, look no further than (our teachers),” added McGee.
College or work begins in earnest for high school seniors only weeks after this year’s graduation. But the stay-at-home proclamation from state and federal leaders has forced many students to alter long-anticipated college plans, they said.
"I am hoping that prom and graduation will be postponed, but I think they will likely be canceled,” said SHS senior Martina Pastore. “I find it disappointing. I was planning to go to a college in Virginia, but I am likely staying in Connecticut because all orientations were canceled, and I can no longer visit.”
Interim Principal Kathy Riddle said staff hopes that students will once again fill the halls of Shelton High during this school year. Riddle said her goal is to “provide our students with all of their end-of-the-year celebrations such as prom and graduation.
“If the reality is that we cannot, then I would be concerned about the opportunity for closure for our students,” said Riddle. “I think it's important for students to experience these milestones in their life.
“I don't want them to enter their college or careers next year less motivated or have a sense of loss because they did not get this opportunity,” she said.
Wurms said she is overwhelmingly disappointed in how the year is turning out but said the cancellations were the right choice to make, considering the severity of the pandemic.
“If we are to use social distancing to flatten the curve, our events were a necessary casualty to prevent real human casualties taking their place,” said Wurms. “The necessity of these cancellations doesn’t mean they don’t hurt, but at least we know that we are sacrificing these experiences for a purpose.”
Wurms, who will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall, said in all the disappointment and uncertainty, “we are not alone.
“Every senior in the country is facing the same issues as us, and people all around the world have to deal with the pandemic’s impact in a multitude of ways,” said Wurms. “We are living through a dark part of modern history by which everyone has been affected. While the world is feeling the pandemic on an epic scale, our feelings about missed opportunities and canceled experiences are still justified.
“We are human, but we can make it through this,” added Wurms. “Hopefully, if we all do our part to social distance and reduce the strain on the medical system, we will see the end sooner rather than later.”
For Brown, the past few weeks have felt incomplete, he said.
“Being a spring sports athlete, I have found myself contemplating what my final season could have been like,” said Brown. “Life must carry on; however, I am continuing with my rigorous academic studies and college selection process just as I did before the pandemic.”
Riddle said the school district takes the situation one day at a time.
“We just need to reassess where we are and make the best decision for all of our students,” she said. “Personally, I want to do everything I can to provide our kids the opportunity to walk across that stage.”