Senior year of high school — and specifically, the last few months of senior year — are special times when friendships can deepen, memories are made, college choices are cemented and celebrations are discussed almost daily.
But with the rapid encroachment of coronavirus into the daily lives of borough residents — requiring the closure of schools, cancellation of extracurriculars, and the curbing of most outdoor activities — Rachel Bonnet and the rest of the class of 2020 have no choice but to carry on.
Bonnet spoke with the Sun via telephone on March 30, just after finishing one of her daily classes that started a bit later than expected. It’s one of the challenges she, and the rest of the HMHS student body, are facing in the switch to online learning.
“I had four AP classes and one accelerated class. It was pretty stressful on most days. From 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. I was in class, then I run track, and after practice, I had to try and get homework done, then I’d talk to my friends and go to bed,” Bonnet said of her old routine.
“I definitely try to maintain it (while at home). I’ve been going to bed a little bit later but you don’t have to worry about getting ready for school and then traveling there. I try to start my work by 9 a.m. Generally the classes don’t take as much time online as they do in school.”
The new lifestyle for distance learning requires more motivation to break, whether it’s finding ways around excessive screen time or being active after sitting for long periods.
“I try to go for a walk sometimes because being on your computer for four hours straight gets rough. I’ll also try to do my workouts outside,” Bonnet revealed. “Social media wise, people are trying to stay connected, and two hours of screen time talking to your friends in addition to everything else you do online, goes by pretty quickly.”
One area Bonnet doesn’t have to worry about is her choice of university: She took the initiative to apply early to an Ivy League program and was rewarded.
“I’m going to Cornell next year, and I’m going to run track there. I had early acceptance. It was nice for me not having to worry so much (about whether or not she’d get accepted) later on,” she revealed.
“I know a lot of (the acceptance letters) came out on the 26th, and it’s been a stressful time for my friends: for them because of the waiting, and for me because I care a lot about them.”
But this particular milestone won’t just be marked by her family. Bonnet said one of her friends and classmates worked on an online version of the traditional announcement site for college acceptances.
“We normally have a college board in our school, where people go to see who got into what college. (There’s an) Instagram account, and everyone can see who’s decided on what school. It goes a long way towards keeping in touch with each other, and it’s rough not being able to celebrate that achievement with each other,” she lamented.
When the calendar turns to spring and the academic responsibilities for seniors have concluded, plans for things like prom, bonfires, movie nights and random day trips take shape. All of that is on hold indefinitely. Bonnet seems to be taking this uncertainty in stride, looking at the larger picture.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but people are definitely disappointed. We understand everyone’s normal has changed. And in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big a sacrifice,” she noted. “We’re trying to keep everyone healthy both mentally and physically, and that social distancing is important in keeping everyone as healthy as we can before things get back to normal.”
To that end, HMHS Principal Tammy McHale and her administration are trying as hard as they can to provide some kind of respite and reward for the seniors’ work, even if school is cancelled for the remainder of the year.
“She doesn’t want these things to be virtual, but I know she’s trying her best to give us what she can. I’m sure there will be more to come of that,” Bonnet added.
One thing which is virtual, but has helped seniors focus on keeping their connection to school on a daily basis, is the first in a series dubbed “HMHS corona home videos,” which made its debut on Bonnet’s Twitter account on March 26.
“I actually made the spreadsheet with all the names of the students who could play all the different parts,” she mused. “For me, in communicating with all the people who responded, it brought me back into contact with some people I missed.”
Bonnet said she’d like to do more videos of that kind, but right now there is no timetable for the release of subsequent editions.