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School’s out – for now

By Richard Rourk

COVID-19 continues to disrupt daily life for everyone and in it has now prevented a group of students from saying goodbye to their friends and teachers.

For Unicoi County High school seniors, the news that schools will be closing prematurely came on April 15. This follows more than a month of missing classes and missing chances to make lasting memories due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has robbed seniors from prom and graduation but the UCHS seniors remain optimistic during the pandemic,” UCHS senior Brandolynn Thomas said. “I have been occupied with the CV-19 Helpline and it really has helped me realize that although losing prom and graduation is sad, there are people struggling and cannot eat right now out there. There are people across the country losing loved ones and my heart goes out to them.”

The CV-19 Helpline is a group of students who are helping those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on CV-19, follow their Facebook page.

For UCHS senior Zach Thompson, the thought of losing prom and graduation is upsetting.

“I’m sad, but I am continuing to have faith that we can have those events at a later date,” Thompson said. “Our last day was chaotic and hectic, but I’m prepared to go on to college. The Unicoi County School System has done a good job getting us prepared.”

Unicoi County Schools Director John English hopes to make it up for the seniors of UCHS in the near future.

“My heart goes out to our seniors,” English said. “We hope to hold a graduation sometime this summer if we can. It’s difficult the way the school year ended.”

For juniors at UCHS, the questions heading into their senior year is stressful.

“The uncertainty going forward of how the different school is going to be in general, that’s the most difficult part of this,” UCHS junior Trent White said.

According to UCHS junior Ashleigh Edwards, the best way to prepare for an uncertain future is to ease into it.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and am just prepared for any change and I’m ready to adapt to any changes the future brings,” Edwards said.

For UCHS junior Daniel Shults, facing an unexpected future is like starting high school all over again.

“I feel like it will be like freshman year,” Shults said. “We are having to pick our classes all over again without the help of faculty, but we will overcome any challenges; we are strong.”

According to English, the move to end the school year was expected.

“We knew everything was going to be difficult to get back into school this school year,” English said.

English acknowledged that grades were finalized on the state level on March 20.

“The State Board of Education gave a lot of good data. So everything that would be equal across the state all grades were cut off March 20,” English said. “We do have some students that are working to improve their grades, but the State Board of Education made legislation that grades could not be hurt by the early end to the school year.”

According to English, school is scheduled to start back in August like normal.

“This thing is so fluid, it changes daily and sometimes hourly, but my hope is to start the next school year on time, in August,” English said. “It has been a challenge for our students and teachers, so we hope we are able to start on time and in-person in classrooms in August.”

English acknowledged that Unicoi County Schools will continue providing meals to students, as long as funding is available.

“We are able to feed these students because of funding; we were funded through May 20,” English said. “As far as summer programs, that is still up in the air at this point. In the past we had summer school and summer programs and at this time I’m not sure how that will look.”

English said he was impressed with the resolve of the students and staff during this pandemic. “Our students, staff and community have been phenomenal during this,” English said. “They have made the best of a rough situation and I’m thankful for that.”

For information about the upcoming school year, please follow Unicoi County Schools News and Updates on Facebook.