Durango High School, like any self-respecting, red-blooded American senior high, has its end-of-the-year senior hijinks, parties, gatherings and rituals, but COVID-19 managed to kill most of them.
Still, the DHS Class of 2020 didn’t go out without showing some ingenuity and grit in overcoming the slings and arrows of outrageous novel coronavirus fortune.
Senior Class President Saylor Sottlemeyer, 18, and Senior Class Student Body President Kaylan Wait, 18, organized the 2020 Senior Drive Through for their class.
The event allowed seniors to drive through a series of stations where they could pick up their cap and gown, receive a senior T-shirt, stop at a counseling station where they could check on their graduation requirements, and at a final station, Principal Jon Hoerl helped hand out yard signs donated to seniors by several families who wished to remain anonymous.
“In two decades in education, this is, hands down, the strangest end to a school year I’ve ever seen,” Hoerl said as he handed out signs.
Hoerl said the Class of 2020 is special to him. Like the graduating seniors, he came to DHS four years ago.
“As many little things we can give to this class is special until we figure out whether we can have an in-person graduation,” he said.
Sasha Creeden, a science teacher, said COVID-19 highlighted the need to ensure all families have access to technology.
Most of her students had internet connections and computers, but not all. For some students, she was providing print packets for daily lessons. She would either mail them to families or families would pick them up at school.
“It’s not the same. You can’t give kids immediate feedback,” she said of her students working from print.
The best part of the day, Creeden said, was simply being physically present to encourage kids, some of whom she hadn’t seen in more than a month.
“It’s nice seeing them even if it is in a car. A lot of us teach because we like to be around people and we like kids. So it is hard to be online.”
Wait said seniors would normally be busy this time of year with a series of celebrations and gatherings – senior picnic, senior tea for the girls and a senior barbecue for the boys.
All those events have been lost to COVID-19 restrictions banning gatherings of more than 10 people.
Students are hopeful Senior Sunset can still be held later in summer.
Senior Sunset, paired with Senior Sunrise, bookend the year for students, who gather to mark the beginning of the year at a sunrise and the end of the year at a sunset.
“There’s a lot of things we couldn’t do, but we’re hoping in August, for everyone who’s still here, to be able to do Senior Sunset,” Wait said.