The thought of their high school years ending without crossing the graduation stage or cutting a rug at prom is a troubling notion for Grade 12 students in Kamloops.
Social-distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 has nixed in-person classes across B.C. and, with gatherings limited to 50 people at a two-metre distance, it’s likely graduation celebrations will also be axed.
The fate of those milestone celebrations has been top of mind for Sa-Hali secondary student Alysha Muzio.
“Ever since I was a little kid, graduating [and] prom has always been my goal, my big thing to look forward to,” Muzio said.
The 18-year-old was planning to run for valedictorian, had already cleared her schedule for grad weekend and spent $600 on a dress she still hopes to wear.
“I take school fairly seriously. I have a 95 per cent average. I play all the school sports. I’m really into my schooling. It’s a huge part of my life and I want to be able to celebrate that,” she said.
William Wroz, an 18-year-old at South Kamloops secondary, said not being able to experience graduation ceremonies would be surreal.
“It feels really weird that it’s happening to us,” he said. “There was a lot of excitement behind our graduation and, all of a sudden, this [virus] comes up and we can’t have it anymore,” he said.
Wroz said delayed ceremonies would be better than nothing, but with the current closures to schools and businesses, it may not be possible to find a caterer or venue.
Emma Humphrey, who also attends Sa-Hali secondary, is hopeful something can be worked out for grad, even if it’s not the traditional format.
“Getting to walk across the stage with my friends and getting my family to see that is a moment you look forward to your whole school career,” Humphrey said.
“And having that taken away is going to be super hard.”
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Busenius graduated a semester early from NorKam senior secondary, but feels it a right of passage to take part in commencements and prom after years of hard work and commitment.
“For it not to happen, it’s upsetting, but I know that this pandemic is a lot bigger than my graduation and I completely understand why it might be cancelled or postponed,” she said.
Muzio said she was also looking forward to taking grad photos with her friends, to look back on them the way her mother does with her graduation images.
“I want to have that,” Muzio said.
Her mother, Sarah Muzio, said she feels horrible for the Grade 12 class not being able to graduate properly, but noted staying isolated is a necessity right now.
She said students will just have to hope for a return to normalcy at some point.
“They’ve all got their grad dresses and they’ve dreamed of this their whole lives and it’s going to be, hopefully, just postponed, but we don’t know,” Sarah Muzio said.
School District 73 superintendent Alison Sidow has said graduation ceremonies in June will likely be cancelled given the indefinite social distancing measures that currently remain in place.
During a press conference on Wednesday, B.C. Medical Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed the need for bans on groups of more than 50, noting people should avoid gathering for ceremonies and other celebrations — even refraining from social gatherings in smaller numbers.
The students of Kamloops’ class of 2020 remain hopeful ceremonies at their respective schools will still be able to happen, even if that’s at a later date and/or in a different form.
DISTANCE LEARNING WON’T BE THE SAME
Next week, students across Kamloops will resume classes remotely due to the threat of COVID-19.
Faced with learning through audio and video recordings and classes via video conference, Wroz feels he will still get a sense of accomplishment from completing his courses, but it won’t be as meaningful without physically being in school.
“It sounds weird, but getting up every morning and going to school to learn the material and seeing my classmates and my friends and teachers I’ve built relationships with all adds to that high school experience,” he said.
Wroz said it will be “a weird adjustment period” not having that face-to-face environment.
Muzio is also lamenting not being able to see her friends at school or get the face-to-face mentorship of her teachers when her semester resumes next week.
“As much as I would complain about my classes — like calculus and English, I’d be like ‘oh, I don’t want to be here’ — now that I’m not there, I kind of regret that,” she said.
SPORTS SEASONS LOST FOR ATHLETES
It’s not just graduation ceremonies Grade 12 students will be missing out on due to the pandemic.
Humphrey is a member of the Frozen Reign of Freeze Athletics cheerleading squad, which qualified for the Summit Championships in Disney World that is now postponed indefinitely.
That competition is like the team’s Super Bowl.
“This team was built just to go to this competition,” said Humphrey, who has been doing cheer for 11 years.
She won’t likely get to attend, even if it’s not cancelled, as she’ll be moving on to university soon.
She said she has only been to the competition once and was hoping for a better experience this time around.
Wroz said he’s disappointed to be missing out on his final tennis season at South Kam, which was to start in April, noting the team looked to be a provincial champion contender this year.
Losing the next three months to COVID-19 means missing the senior year of school soccer for Muzio, who has been playing the sport for about 14 years.
She said she had been looking forward to this season for years as the school recognizes and bids farewell to the graduating players at an annual team party.
“And I don’t get that now? That has been a huge part of my life,” Muzio said.
MESSAGE REMAINS — KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
While these students have been social distancing in a bid to help prevent spreading the virus, it appears some of their peers have not received the message.
Wroz and Muzio said some of their classmates are still hanging out in groups and going to parties during the pandemic, which is frustrating.
“I’m shocked. I’m like, ‘Do you not realize how serious this is?’ Because I know that grad affects them, too, so I would think that they would take it more seriously,” Muzio said.
“It’s frustrating for the people who are following the rules because, eventually, more measures are going to have to be put in place if people keep disobeying the social-distancing rules,” Wroz said.
To those who aren’t social distancing, Muzio said they need to think about others.
“I know it sucks, [but] everybody has to go through this,” she said.
“Take the precautions, wash your hands, stay at home. You can go without your friends for a little bit — it’s not going to kill you. What will kill you is the virus.”