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A couple of weeks ago, I badly wanted a break from school. I went to bed that night with the intention of skipping the next day.
While I was sleeping, Gov. Ralph Northam issued a mandatory two-week hiatus for all Virginia public schools.
I got what I wished for.
I don’t wish for it anymore.
As the week progressed, it became evident that the situation wasn’t getting better, and on Monday, March 23, Gov. Northam closed down every public school in the state for the rest of the school year.
Related: How the coronavirus has upended college admissions
I went to school on Wednesday, March 11, not knowing it would be my last day as a high school student. I didn’t have my final sign-off during the morning announcements. I didn’t get to thank my teachers for imparting endless knowledge to me. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends who I’ll never sit in a classroom with again.
I should be sitting in class counting down the days until graduation, wishing it could all go by faster. I should be in the middle of “Senior Slump.”
Instead, I’m stuck at home, hoping and praying that I’ll get the opportunity to walk across the stage at graduation, decked out in cords and tassels.
My spring break plan was to visit every college I had been accepted to so I could make my final decision. Now I may end up committing to a college I’ve never seen.
I bought my prom dress months ago. It’s pink and covered with flowers, and it’s the first long formal dress I’ve ever worn. I should have been wearing it last week while hitting the dance floor one last time with friends I’ve made over the past four, six, 12 years. Instead, prom was canceled.
For the past three years, I’ve been involved with my school’s theater. My last show was set to open on Friday, March 13. My sister, teachers and grandparents promised they’d come out to see it. After Opening Night, the rest of the performances were canceled.
Related: Helping kids who are feeling isolated and anxious after schools shut down
Now, instead of performing in the theater, I’m home watching “Survivor.”
I’m also thinking about survival. I know that people’s lives are at stake, especially the lives of people like my grandparents, but perhaps even my own life. I used to think of my asthma as a great excuse to get out of gym class.
Now, like many other things, it doesn’t seem so great anymore.
Because this is really about life and death.
What a difference a couple of weeks can make.
This story about high school and the coronavirus was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up here for Hechinger’s newsletter.
Julia Finke is a senior at the Governor’s School for the Arts and Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia.
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