COVID-19 Means Uncertainty For Graduating High School Seniors

May 4, 2020

The class of 2020’s final weeks of school are bound to be memorable amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, though not for all the usual reasons. Some Bozeman Field School students shared their experiences as seniors graduating during a pandemic.

The small specialty high school educates students using group-based, hands-on experiences held mainly outdoors. The format doesn’t exactly go hand-in-hand with online classes, but graduating senior Maddy Carlson says her teachers have found some workarounds.

"It’s been a lot more hands-on than I expected," she said. "Our current project in chemistry right now, we’re gathering materials, and being helped by the school for our budget with that, to build our own renewable energy battery currently. So that’s pretty hands-on."

With just weeks to go until the end of school, Carlson and her fellow senior classmates are looking ahead to their future. It's daunting for any student taking their first step into the adult world, let alone with all the uncertainty that COVID-19 brings.

Liam Rasch has struggled to complete online schoolwork, and knows there is a possibility that he might have to retake some classes in order to graduate.

"So it’s been a real struggle for me," he said. "I rely on school for a lot of things, and it’s just hard."

Rasch planned to attend Humboldt State University in northern California to study botany, but uncertainty about attending classes in person and his current struggles have him reconsidering.

"Partially because of corona, but more so because of some personal stuff, I’m probably going to be taking a gap year just to solidify some things and make sure I’m really ready," Rasch said.

Fellow senior Reece Reibel is going another direction: He hopes to try his hand as a working artist.

"I do a lot of like, abstract drawings, and I’m trying to branch more into watercolor and try my hand in some more realism and less abstract art," he said.

Reibel has some mentorships lined up and plans to move out of his parents’ house. Some of those plans might be on hold until Montana’s economy is fully open and he can find a job to support himself.

Liberty Sheckleton, another senior, plans to attend Whitman College in southeastern Washington. As of now, in-person classes are set to resume next fall. Sheckleton said it’ll be a major disappointment if things change and she ends up staying at home to attend class online.

"I picked Whitman for, you know, the community and really the people who enjoy, like, being in the outdoors, like, Whitman’s a really outdoor school," she said. "And so it’s a little disappointing that the school that I picked for the community that I really liked, I won’t actually get to experience in person."

This is not how Sheckleton pictured her senior year. her grade will still be able to graduate with an in-person ceremony, but it will have reduced attendance. Other memorable end-of-high-school events, such as prom and an annual backpacking trip, have been canceled.

"I was expecting to have a full year with my friends, and to be able to finish the year just kind of like coasting into graduation," Sheckleton said. "But that’s not what happened. And I’m separated from my friends for this last month."

When she looks back, Sheckleton doesn't expect her senior year to stand out. It will be the memories she made during the first three years of her high school career.

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