OPINION: Let the Seniors Leave

With COVID-19 moving learning online, seniors with their credits would benefit if their school stopped now.


Chandler Hoel

Several seniors in the Class of 2020 have finished their graduation requirements. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should give these seniors the option to graduate early instead of engaging in remote learning.

Damien Gonzales, Staff Writer

Very few student experiences are universal, but every student in some way looks forward to senior year. Senior year is the one to remember: making varsity teams, going to senior prom, walking the halls with friends as the top of the class, and of course graduation. Senior year is a right of passage in our culture.

But for the senior class of 2020, our right of passage has been.

Our world is fighting a major pandemic. Businesses have had to close their doors, schools are scrambling to promote remote learning, and we are receiving daily updates from Governor Polis and President Trump. Citizens are ordered to “stay at home” unless they are essential. Everyone is having to adapt to a whole new way of life. For some of us, family time is all the time with parents working from home and students losing their jobs. For other students, they are busier than ever, working 40 hours a week in their essential job. Still others are suffering from parents being out of work or family that is sick with the virus, worried that they may lose something more precious than prom in the next few weeks.  Some will lose their income, some are working from home, others are considered essential personnel and continue to go to work.

So with all of this, I humbly ask: should the Class of 2020 be cut some slack?

We are tired. Some of us are the only working members of our family right now, our grocery and restaurant jobs supporting parents and siblings as best we can. Many of us are trying to figure out college plans in a world where we cannot go on-campus visits, perform for talent scouts, or easily get ahold of a bursar or adviser or other person key to our enrollment because everyone is out of the office. We miss seeing our friends and hanging out with them (texting and group chaats are not the same). We are frustrated that we can’t have a party or go out to a movie or stay out at the Waffle House until 3 AM. We also have a bunch of anxiety about the end of high school, not knowing if or when prom, graduation, and all that will happen.

That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of someone who is seventeen or eighteen. So what can we do? Simple: seniors that have met their academic requirements should be allowed to remove themselves from remote learning. We update their records to say “graduated early,” we give them a virtual handshake, and we send them on their way.

Consider the upsides to this plan. These seniors have already fulfilled their obligations as students. We’ve passed our required classes, ordered our caps and gowns, and sent in our senior photos and quotes–for these students, there’s nothing really left to do. Talking with many fellow members of the Class of 2020, they decided to stick out the second semester of senior year for mostly social reasons–playing on varsity sports (and attending the six classes required to be a student-athlete), landing a lead role in the spring play, attending prom, spending the last few weeks with friendships built in elementary school, and so on. But those reasons to stay are now gone, and even if the sports seasons pick back up in May, even if our delayed prom still happens, lots of seniors would have left in December had they known this is what spring 2020 would look like.

It’s not like graduating early is unheard of either. A few members of the Class of 2020 have already graduated early–the district has had a process in place for early graduation for years. So what is the harm in adding more students to that number? This isn’t the same as dropping out–early graduates still get their diploma as they walk at graduation (whenever that will be), they still have FHS transcripts, and they are still considered an alumnus. Other schools in the nation are doing this: for example, the government just passed a bill that allows senior medical students to receive their diplomas early to jump in the fight against this pandemic. Becoming a doctor is one of the most challenging degrees one can obtain, yet colleges and the fed seem confident that they can skip these last few weeks. So why can’t Frederick’s seniors? Is there anything that can be taught in the next eight weeks to seniors that have met their requirements that they haven’t already gotten?

Allowing seniors that have met the criteria to be “dismissed” would also help the school. In this first week of online learning, Frederick staff has been swamped with participation logs, digital assignment entries, and tons of emails that used to be quick conversations in the hallway. Letting go of the seniors who have satisfied their requirements would help ease this new workload on teachers and counselors. It would also free up some of the congestion on the heavily used remote learning platforms, which seem to crash every day from the high traffic. Schoology reported that it has received four times the amount of use it had before the COVID-19 shutdown; letting some of the seniors go would help ease this burden. Many seniors that have younger siblings have also been forced to share their school-issued device with them so they can do their work at home. And we have some large families that attend school in Frederick. With each student requiring an online device and some families only having one device per family, getting everyone through their work challenge. Letting seniors who have satisfied their requirements out of their second-semester classes takes one more person off that needed device.

We also need to evaluate the students who might now be tasked with assisting their family to stay afloat during this unknown time. Several seniors in our community have started helping their parents, whether it be financially because of lost jobs or with their younger siblings. Daycares have closed and after school programs have closed, but those little kids still need someone watching them. The Class of 2020 should be allowed to do whatever they need to in order to help with these community burdens.

I can speak from experience: I am now working forty hours a week at King Soopers. My job is considered essential, as I stock your shelves, deliver your groceries, and ensure that the store is sanitized so you won’t get sick from your weekly run to get food and supplies. I have enjoyed serving the community and the extra income (seniors have bills too, like car insurance, and those seniors who have unfortunately lost their jobs now also have that burden). But it’s only been a few days and it’s already been hard juggling work with remote learning and taking care of my family. My job and my family aren’t going anywhere, so if I have to cut something out, it’ll be school. I actually do like school and I like my teachers and classes, but we’re in a tough time with this pandemic, and tough decisions sometimes need to be made.

Now I’m not saying that all seniors should be allowed to bow out of their online learning: high school graduation is one of the most important milestones for a person, and if a senior needs classes to graduate, they need to stick it out. Underclassmen also need to be in remote learning: not only do they need to fulfill their graduation requirements and keep working toward the SAT, but they also don’t have the ability to help out the community like seniors can.  Some seniors with their requirements may even elect not to graduate early due to AP classes or hopes of the athletic season continuing, and that’s their choice.

But it should be a choice.

If we declared war against a foreign country, the school would find a way for seniors who have finished their requirements to get their diploma early and ship out to fight the enemy. Well, we’re at war with an invisible enemy, and it’s hard for so many of our seniors to fight to keep their families healthy and the community functioning with the burden of unnecessary schooling. All I’m aking is that St. Vrain should allow the seniors who can leave school behind at this point to make their exit. We need to let them spread their wings and go not just for their stress level and not just for their sanity but for the whole community.