FAIRHOPE -- For high school students the conclusion of their public school education might bring to mind a final year of accomplishments, performances and examinations leading up to caps, gowns and a walk across a stage to receive a diploma while loved ones watch from the stadium stands.
When the current school year began in August 2019, few members of the Class of 2020 could have expected going home in March and discovering that they would not be returning for any of the last quarter two months of their final year.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” Rose Hunter, Fairhope High School senior, said. “One thing I was looking forward to was that our graduation was going to be on my grandmother’s birthday. I never knew her, but it meant a lot to my family. Now it’s not going to happen.”
The last day of school for students was March 17, four days after the first case of COVID 19 was reported in Baldwin County. Students at the time were told that they would return to class on April 13, the Monday after spring break.
On March 26, Gov. Kay Ivey ordered all Alabama schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
“We never got to say good-bye to some of our teachers,” Hunter said. She said she and other students have been working on projects and rehearsing for band concerts at the end of the year. “Now, we won’t be doing that,” she said.
Her classmate, Wyatt Townsend, said he and some seniors are disappointed, but trying to take a positive outlook.
“It’s certainly a weird experience,” he said. “It’s an interesting way to wrap things up.”
Wyatt said he and others also regretted the abrupt end of the year. “I wish I could have had a chance to say good-bye,” he said. “Not seeing people is going to be the biggest problem.”
He said seniors in the high school choir also have a tradition of performing solos at the end of the year. “That’s not going to happen and I had some theater shows that we’ve been working on. All that’s been postponed or canceled.”
Wyatt said events of the last few weeks have been a good learning experience.
“Maybe it’s a wake-up call for a lot of seniors that things are not going to always go all right,” he said.
The Baldwin County School System sent out a notice stating that all seniors in good standing who had met state graduation requirements at the end of the third quarter of school have completed their high school education.
Advance Placement seniors in good standing have also been declared graduates. Students in the AP program were told that they need to begin preparing for their college boards to receive college credit.
Students in the International Baccalaureate program who are in good standing and who have completed graduation requirements are also considered graduates. The IB program will students’ test scores from last year and combine it with this year’s grades to determine credits.
Seniors who are not in good standing and who have not met the requirements for graduation by the end of the third quarter will be contacted by school system officials after April 13 to work on plans to complete their graduation requirements.