Destrehan High School senior Kayla Porche was looking forward to spring break just a few weeks ago, but now shares what would have been a quite unexpected sentiment with several classmates.
“I’d do anything to go back to school,” Porche said.
Porche is one among countless high school seniors who have seen their senior year compromised, an experience so many have looked forward to for years that is now over, and the status of activities like prom and graduation are in many ways up in the air.
“You think oh, I can’t wait to be out of school, but I know I’ve heard from so many people that wish we were back in school,” Porche continued. “It’s something people take for granted. Nobody feels excited anymore … we’re all in this mood of there being nothing to really look forward to.”
Porche acknowledged given world events during the COVID-19 pandemic, senior activities are small potatoes compared to the hardships so many people have faced. But it still hurts to think so many senior moments – prom, graduation, senior trip, the final days of class and saying goodbye to classmates and teachers – might not happen at all or could be significantly altered, she said.
“It’s heartbreaking, obviously,” Porche said. “Everything leads up to this and we won’t get to experience it like everyone else does. You just try to stay positive, stay in contact with classmates and friends … you’re still trying to figure out what you’ll be able to do for a senior year.”
Hahnville High School senior Montana Smith recently got the news that the Lady Tigers’ softball season was officially finished, which she called a blow.
“Coach (Jerry Nugent) let me know they decided to cancel the season. I didn’t want to get emotional on the call with him, but as soon as I hung up, I couldn’t hold it in,” Smith said. “It was kind of devastating.”
Hahnville senior Jude Saucier said the sudden finality of his high school time came as a shock.
“Yeah it was kind of tough for me. Sitting in that class on that Friday, I was never knowing that was the last day I’d be ever be sitting in class with my childhood friends,” Saucier said. “ I never imagined this at all when it started. I was expecting maybe further down the line we’d have to close school, but not right there, right then, where we’re just done.”
Senior proms for each school have been postponed indefinitely, as well as the annual after prom event Promapalooza. What will happen for graduation, meanwhile, remains unclear. Last week, the St. Charles Parish Public school district noted plans to potentially host an in-person graduation ceremony in July, if allowed to do so. Superintendent Ken Oertling said additional senior recognition plans are being developed.
So were ceremonies to not go on, it won’t be for lack of trying by the schools and students alike. But as with about everything related to the pandemic, plans are fluid and dependent on how things progress in the coming weeks.
“When you think back to high school, there are those major milestones like senior prom, getting to walk across stage … everyone really wants those things,” Smith said. “It would be really difficult to lose those moments. I know it’s selfish to think ‘Well, what about us,’ when right now it’s really all about helping everyone who is going through this right now. It’s still hard, though.
“If it turns out we’d never have the things we’ve been looking forward to our entire lives, I think it would leave a void. We wouldn’t have that closure after 12 years of school.”
In addition to the emotional blow, were there to be no prom, it would turn some purchases into a waste. Porche noted she purchased her prom dress online for $300, and many of her friends have already bought their dresses as well.
She added a group of parents have talked of organizing a prom, or prom-like event, for the senior students in the event of a full cancellation.
“It’s been really helpful to know they understand and they want to make sure we have prom and graduation, and don’t just have those moments disappear,” Porche said.
While she said nothing concrete has been relayed in terms of graduation, she’s optimistic the parish’s school district will find a way to have graduation happen.
“I don’t think we’ll have a virtual graduation … they know it’s our senior year and they want us to experience a live graduation,” Porche said. “I think we’ll be doing something.”
If not, it would be a jarring end for the Class of 2020. More than anything else, Smith said, the relationships built in high school are truly special. The realities of life mean that not all of those carry on forever, and for many of those connections, it’s never quite the same once school is over.
“That’s been at the forefront of my mind … I’ve bonded with a lot of my teachers this past year. It hit hard to realize, and even with my past teachers I’ve grown close with, that I might not be able to see them again or have that last goodbye,” Smith said.
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