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Students navigate the uncertainty of high school in a time of remote learning and stay at home orders

Juniors are preparing to take SATs and apply to colleges in a time when any sort of preparation for the future seems like a futile effort. Seniors are watching as their final semester of high school gets traded in for a Google classroom education and Zoom calls with friends.

High schoolers across the state are seeing their much anticipated milestones like state championships and prom canceled, and their futures put on hold amid the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic. PGM PHOTO: ASIA ALVAREZ ZELLER - Laurel Finlay (center) talks with peers during a club meeting on the last day of school before closures.

"I felt like, as a senior, kind of my best semester of high school was being taken away," said Laurel Finlay, a senior at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego.

She said she's accepted the reality of it all now, and she's glad everyone is going through this together while doing what they can to stay safe.

Still, she's worried about how effective online learning is going to be.

"I'm definitely not a teach-myself kind of learner," she said.

She wonders how teachers are going to be able to grade fairly and how they'll prepare her for an at-home AP test.

She's also worried the online format won't be as conducive to learning and that she won't pass her AP tests as a result. She said she was hoping those credits would lighten her college course load and save her some financial burden.

Finlay said she anticipates relying on peers to help her study.

"I definitely think we're gonna need to use each other as resources," she said.

Many juniors right now are feeling similarly.

"I'm a junior. I have next year to look forward to," said Skyler Moore, a student at West Linn High School..

Still she has a list of things she's missing out on due to school closures: junior prom, tennis team and a journalism trip to Nashville to name a few.

"It's definitely a challenge thinking about not being able to be in a classroom," Moore said. "(But) a lot of my teachers already use online tools ... A lot of our learning is already centralized online."

She said the majority of her teachers use Google Classroom to post assignments and announcements to the whole class.

Testing is also a stressor for Moore, though she's not as worried about AP tests as she is about the SATs. Moore has spent a lot of time preparing for the exam that would have been administered in March. Now she's scheduled for an SAT in June. She said it means more time to study, but also more time to forget what she's learned.

"I can't decide if I'm upset or not," she said.

Moore, who serves as editor in chief of the school newspaper, has been reading and writing a lot to keep busy during the stay-at-home orders. She's thankful to have her younger sister to keep her company during this time.

Finlay pointed out that the pandemic is affecting much more than students' current education — it's affecting their futures as well.

"It makes making future decisions so much more difficult," Finlay said.

Her plans for after high school are now up in the air. She was going to defer for a year and travel to Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua through a program called Carpe Diem. Because of the pandemic, the program might not continue, so she doesn't know if she should defer or not.

"It kind of feels like everything is on pause," she said.

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