Graduation has finally arrived and for most if not all graduating seniors in the county schools, this has been a year like no other. And based on the attitudes of this year’s graduating class the students have met unimaginable challenges with a positive attitude that will prepare them well for the challenges ahead.
There is no question this year’s senior class has faced significant trials in the past but this year was particularly difficult and unique.
The first significant trial for this class, and students countywide, was the arrival of Hurricane Florence, which devastated thousands of structures including all the county school buildings, after 36 hours of hurricane force winds and unrelenting rainfall. Fortunately, then county school superintendent Mat Bottoms quickly reacted and had most county schools operating four weeks after the storm had passed. But this did not end the challenges as many students, their families, and school personnel were forced to find temporary shelters as their homes awaited hurricane repairs.
The following year Hurricane Dorian damaged homes Down East, flooding nearby Ocracoke Island. The county’s school system once again stepped up with assistance for the devastated families, providing support for Ocracoke students, some of whom attended Carteret County schools while their schools were being repaired.
Then COVID-19 hit in March of 2020 interrupting the spring semester for students nationwide. This set in motion what has resulted in a year like no other for public school students and particularly this year’s senior class.
Arguably the senior class of 2020 lost out on its final semester and most of the graduation experiences. But that class, and all county students, did enjoy much of the traditional school year for 2019-20.This year’s senior class not only missed out on the traditions of being juniors with anticipation of becoming high school seniors, a definite rite of passage, they also lost most of the experience of being seniors and enjoying that special time in their educational experience.
The opening of the school year, if you can call it opening, was confusing and chaotic as the state’s public school districts awaited a very tardy guidance package of how classes were to be conducted as part of the national COVID-19 quarantine program. With only four weeks before the 2020-21 school year was to begin, Governor Cooper announced that schools could either open with full remote classes or a hybrid program which amounted to a combination of remote and in-class participation.
Regardless of the classroom participation being utilized, the overall impact was isolation for all students and a major blow to this year’s high school seniors who were finalizing 12 years of life forming experiences with friends, teachers and coaches - a year that can never be replicated.
Though these graduates have lost an important academic and social year, they have been challenged like no other students before them and they have in the main performed exceptionally well.
In the process of applauding these students, we also acknowledge the outstanding work of the teachers and school staffs who were equally disrupted by the pandemic and who likewise persevered in preparing these graduating seniors and their underclass peers.
The important conclusion for this year’s senior class is that they have proven themselves to be self-reliant and disciplined. And in spite of the lost experiences, they have maintained a positive attitude throughout.
A series of interviews with the senior class presidents of the county’s four high schools, three public and one private, available for listening on the News-Times website, confirms this conclusion. Each senior class president, interviewed independently, noted that they and their peers had to learn to be disciplined and persistent in their studies. Furthermore, these students, showing initiative and sensitivity, used social media to support one another throughout the year.
As this year draws to a close for these seniors, questions remain about how well prepared they are academically after having lost much of the benefits of in-classroom instruction. But there may be a silver lining in that these graduates have learned to be self-reliant and disciplined.
Considering the changing dynamic of world economies and industries which requires a constant flow of new knowledge and education, maybe this year’s graduates are actually better prepared for this new paradigm. Only time will prove this out. But what is unquestionable is that they are a class like no other.