What was lost and is to come for GMHS seniors due to COVID-19

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On March 10, Granby Memorial High School was business as usual. Classes began at 7:35 a.m. with everyone anticipating that 11 hours later the boys’ basketball team would play a first-round home game in the CIAC Division IV tournament. By 9:30 a.m., all Connecticut athletic directors and principals had gotten word that there would be no games, that the tournaments were finished. Coaches were notified at 10 a.m., Twitter spread the official word at 11:30 a.m. and by 12:30 p.m., all winter athletes were told their seasons were over.

“I was a little bit upset, because at the time I felt they’d made the wrong decision,” senior and starting center Rowan Heinze said. “But as more information came out and we found out more about it, it sucks but it had to be done.”

Three days later, GMHS announced it would begin a two-week transition to online learning. All Granby students have been out of school since March 13 due to COVID-19, a novel coronavirus that has killed over 1,000 people in Connecticut and over 40,000 nationwide as of April 20. Though seven weeks have passed, many unknowns loom—not just for athletes but the GMHS senior class as a whole. These students are trying to take the changes in stride while making the most of their final weeks in the Granby school system.

Since March 30, GMHS has continued with classes via online learning. Teachers have been uploading their lessons to Google Classroom, where students can access them for instruction. Unlike college lectures, which are primarily live, GMHS’ virtual classes that students are expected to attend are pre-recorded videos. 

Some teachers have been holding live review sessions for tests and AP exams that are optional, senior Sam Attianese said. While some teachers have assigned “a ton of work,” others have given “barely any,” as both they and their students navigate this new approach.

“It’s been beneficial,” Attianese said, “Like I’m still learning stuff. It’s not as good as in-person connection but I think it’s definitely helping.”

Both AP exams and UConn’s Early College Experience program have adapted to fit a remote learning environment. This year’s AP exams will be open-book and without multiple choice. For example, AP Government students will be given two 45-minute windows from noon to 2 p.m. on May 22, each consisting of two free-response questions.

Working outside of the classroom has its perks, like allowing students to get work done on their own time and pace, senior Naviah Barrow said. However, Barrow conceded the value of actually being in school.

“This is the last stretch with the people that I’ve known over the past 12 years, my best friends, or just people I’d say hi to in the hallway,” she said. “At some point I had to realize that if we never go back to school, I’m not going to see a lot of those people again.”

These seniors will not be back until at least May 20, per Governor Ned Lamont. By then, the spring production, band concert, and all but one game for each varsity sport will have passed. Nearly a third of planned content for this year’s yearbook was cancelled and replaced with other photos and designs, according to senior Kenya Mouning.

For Attianese, it’s his first missed baseball season since he was four years old. For Barrow, it was her 4×400 relay team’s final chance to earn that elusive NCCC all-conference honor. For Heinze, it was a trip to Ireland with his family over April break, replaced by distance learning and working out in his home, because “there’s not much to be done.”

Water wars, senior pranks, senior skip day and all of the other nugatory activities that mean so much in the moment for “fourth-quarter seniors” are currently on hold. Prom has been tentatively rescheduled from May 15 to June 15, the day before graduation.

“All of those things are kinda a big thing to look forward to that I’ve been seeing for the past three years, four years,” Attianese said. “I was like ‘Wow, I can’t wait until I’m there that’s going to be such a fun time,’ and now it’s all gone.”

But, through proactive use of social media, the class has done what it can to stay intact. Attianese and the rest of student government started an Instagram page titled, “GMHS Seniors,” where these future graduates can announce what they’ll be doing in the fall, whether that be college, joining the military or going right to work. 

And, as for now, the class of 2020 will get one last chance to reconvene on June 16. “You have to take what you can get in times like these,” Barrow said.