At White Hills Academy in St. Anthony, the class of 2020 is honoured with balloons spread across the front doors, but a bench blocks the way into the school. The scene is a poignant reminder of the obstacles placed before students by COVID-19.
Kaya Tucker is one of many students who have faced hardships dealing with the loss of the experiences they wanted so much from high school – things such as prom and graduation.
What the future might hold is a constant worry for Tucker.
Tucker, who went to White Hills Academy in St. Anthony, sounded disappointed when talking about school closing a few months early.
“I found out around March 15, I think, right after the long weekend,” Tucker said.
With only a few months left of her high school journey, Tucker’s education was a big thing on her mind.
“Where I’m a graduate student, I was supposed to do publics, and that’s worth half my marks,” Tucker said. “In terms of post-secondary, I feel like this would affect me going into school because I don’t really know all the stuff I should’ve learned.”
Losing out on educational needs is a big thing for many students.
According to UNESCO, more than 70 per cent of the world’s student population has been affected by COVID-19.
Graduation ceremonies were another aspect that students like Tucker lost out on.
“Basically, we got our final marks in the mail, so that’s supposed to be like our graduating grades,” Tucker said. “But we’re not having a ceremony as such unless it’s after this whole thing is over.”
Like so many high school girls, Tucker had long anticipated her prom. She and many of her friends had already bought their prom dresses.
Tucker took the loss of her last few months of high school hard.
“I waited my whole life for this last year of school and I worked really hard for it.”
“Having them home all day calms me knowing they’re safe.”– Julie Penney
Julie Penney, who lives in Clarenville, has two children who are still in school. Her daughter has just graduated recently while her son is finishing Grade 8.
Routine was always something Penney and her family were used to. Getting up around 7 in the morning, having breakfast together and driving the kids to school are common things that happen every morning.
With COVID-19 shutting down schools, their daily routine has changed.
“We’re just trying to live a new normal,” Penney said. “Having them home all day calms me knowing they’re safe, but I know it’s hard on them not being able to do stuff they would normally do every day.”
Being more involved in her children’s school lives is something Penney appreciates.
“I get emails from the teachers regularly,” she said. “They send them to the kids too, but it feels like we’re trying to work together more to help the kids get through school.”
Despite not being in a classroom environment, teachers are still trying to find ways to make sure students are learning what they need to. With different learning experiences like Zoom or online classrooms, it’s potentially easier on both teachers and students in getting their lessons.
Penney had a surprised tone to her voice when talking about what her kids might be missing by not being in school every day.
“Oh, I’d say they miss a lot,” she said. “Even the hands-on stuff – they’re missing all of that.”
The kids are even missing out on just being able to see their teachers in person, Penney adds.
Doing online classes is something that both of Penney’s children had to deal with the past couple of months.
“Now they’ve had to wait in the mornings for Google classrooms to start up,” she said. “It hasn’t been every day though, almost all over the place.”
Candace, Julie’s daughter, has experienced challenges such as Google classrooms almost every day since COVID-19 ended her time at school.
As someone who graduated this year, she was another person among many who missed out on experiences that so many others got to see in years prior.
Like Tucker, Candace is also one of the many students who looked forward to graduation but was unable to attend.
“I had my grad dress bought back in late February just to have it a bit early,” she said. “But when they told us school was going to close, I was definitely disappointed.”
Candace also mentioned that she waited a long time to go to prom and graduate, but the last few months slipped out of her fingers.
Graduation ceremonies are a major point in many students’ lives, as for many students it’s the next step in life before the move to adulthood.
“I was hoping to move for school in the fall,” Candace said. “But now that everything is going to be online in the fall, I’m going to be home longer. I’m still glad I get to be around family, but having that freedom of starting out on my own after high school was something I was kind of excited to experience.”
Dean Ingram, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association, knew a lot about the struggles that teacher’s and students face on a daily basis.
“I get calls from teachers and parents quite frequently with concerns, especially with Covid-19 shutting schools down the past few months.”
With the transitions to online learning, things such as technological troubles and not being face to face with teachers is something that Ingram believes are struggles students deal with.
“Online learning is not a replacement for face to face learning. With possible technological troubles or kids not having access to a device, there are still worries about getting our students the education they need.” Ingram said.
The lack of a household device is one of the many challenges students have to face when it comes to their education. Since COVID-19 shut down schools back in March, the lack of reliable means to get their education is hard on any student.
With contributions from Nick Travis and Nic Conway