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West Linn High School seniors reflect on how the coronavirus has changed their last year of high school

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The class of 2020 likely won't have the same grand commencement ceremony as the classes that came before them. The end of high school hasn't been quite like they envisioned. West Linn High School seniors planned on attending prom, celebrating May Day, walking at graduation and soaking up the final weeks of high school with their classmates.

And then it all came to a halt last month as COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — tore through the country.

West Linn High School senior Kaleigh Henderson said she was shocked when she learned school would be closed for the rest of the year. After announcing in March that Oregon schools would be closed for several weeks, Gov. Kate Brown said April 8 that public schools would not be reopening this year.

"There's so much stuff I still want to do. I still want to do my senior prom and May Day and graduation," Henderson said. "I have three or four honor cords to wear at graduation that I'm never going to get to wear."

WLHS would have celebrated its 100th May Day this year, a tradition that involves a royal court of seniors rehearsing dances for weeks, a student talent show and a May pole.

Henderson said she'd thought about moments like her senior prom and high school graduation for years and to have them taken away with only weeks to go was difficult to process.

"Since I was in preschool, I've been playing prom with my friends," she said.

The realization that the coronavirus would disrupt these events was hard on Ryan Adelman, another WLHS senior, as well. Though as a member of the Associated Student Body (ASB), the group that organizes student functions for the school, Adelman said all hope is not yet lost for these events.

The ASB is looking into ways to safely host a prom, graduation and May Day celebrations over the summer, according to Adelman.

Adelman said he expected to have the last weeks of school to spend time with friends and take in the fact that high school is over. It's difficult to lose that time, he said, but he's still trying to look on the bright side.

Adelman said he and his friends check in with each other every day through group chats and he stays connected to his church groups via Zoom meetings. Similarly, Henderson said she texts and Facetimes friends.

As seniors, both Henderson and Adelman plan to move away to college next year, but seeing how much the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted college life has worried them a bit.

Henderson canceled college visits she had planned for this spring, while Adelman had planned on attending a June orientation at the University of Alabama, which will now take place online.

Henderson said she plans to live on campus at whichever school she attends and is hopeful that colleges will announce the re-opening of dorms this summer.

In the back of his mind, Adelman said he has some concerns about the virus sticking around through the summer and affecting students moving into dorms or attending classes in person, though he said he is hopeful that, by fall, lecture halls and dorms will reopen.

To keep things somewhat normal, Henderson and Adelman are still learning at least some of what they would have been studying in class this spring. Like all public schools in the state, WLHS instituted distance learning this month.

Henderson said each of her six classes take up about an hour of her time each week, which is not nearly as much as she'd like, but about the best she could hope for given the circumstances.

Adelman feels similarly about the new model of learning.

"For a whole year, this definitely would not be sufficient learning, but I know that teachers are doing their best to get students learning and trying to make up all the stuff that they would miss throughout the year," he said.

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