Senior students at Carroll County high schools have been separated for weeks because of a global pandemic, forced to miss out on many of the rites of passage associated with their last year of school.
With details of their graduation in a state of flux, the Class of 2020 has sought normality. In interviews with the Times-Georgian, some of these students talked about how they are keeping to the rhythms of their senior year despite all the distractions of the past few months.
Anna Puckett, a senior at Mount Zion High School, said that she thinks that this whole experience has created a strong bond with her peers. Group text messages and video calls are all ways that she has been able to connect with her friends.
Looking back, she said, it seems she took time for granted. Before, she and her friends did not want to be in class, but now, she wishes she could be back at school just one more time.
“We came in the world during 9/11 and now we’re going to leave high school during a pandemic, so our lives have really revolved around those two things,” she said. “Our class is really going to grow from this and build a strong relationship with each other.”
High schools in Carroll County Schools, Carrollton City Schools, and Oak Mountain Academy all have a tentative plan to hold in-person ceremonies, under the condition that social distancing guidelines have been lifted by the time that ceremony takes place.
But it isn’t just graduation that seniors will be missing. Carly Robinson, a senior at Bowdon High School, said that while the big events like graduation and prom are important to them, the little, everyday things like joking around and getting the teacher off-topic, tennis practice, and riding the bus are what truly matter.
“I’d give anything to just go to a normal day of school, see all my teachers, eat lunch with my friends, and say ‘hi’ to people in the halls,” said Robinson. “We’re not actually sad to miss the events; we’re sad to miss the time we would be spending together.”
Seniors have been looking forward to graduation, but Bowdon High School student Charles Bell said that at the end of the day, there’s a bigger picture. With people losing their jobs as well as loved ones, he’s now just searching for ways to help his community.
Teachers are also quick to help out their students. All three students said they praised their teacher’s efforts. Bell said that he doesn’t think that he’s ever seen a graduating class celebrated so much as his class.
“Our teachers are amazing,” said Bell. “They’re working very hard to make sure that they’re making the best out of the situation for the seniors.”
Carrollton High School is planning a graduation ceremony for June 1, depending on safety guidelines. The five Carroll County School System high schools are planning to hold their ceremonies on the original date, but they have reserved two back-up dates in case they are needed.
“When it became apparent we may not be able to hold a traditional graduation, we reached out to the senior class leadership and asked them to poll other class members on what they would prefer to do, if that was indeed the case,” said CHS principal David Brooks. “An overwhelming majority said they did not want a virtual graduation and wanted to end their high school career with their classmates on the field in Grisham Stadium.”
At Oak Mountain Academy, a closed ceremony is set for June 13. There will be fewer seats, set farther apart than they would normally be, though that plan could also change if local guidelines change.
“We have not taken our decision to continue with our Commencement Ceremony lightly,” said OMA Headmaster Patrick Yuran. “It is so difficult to make the best decision for our community while also maintaining good practices for health and safety. With all of this in mind, we feel that we can still uphold our long-standing Academy traditions, while also maintaining a safe environment.”