COVID-19 pandemic encourages a ‘new normal’

COVID-19: the introduction to a pandemic

We have entered uncharted territory; not only in Hampton Roads, the state, the country, but throughout the world as the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID-19, has spread from its alleged origin in Wuhan, China, to every continent in the world.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) began preventative measures at the beginning of March, perhaps before, in case the spread threatened student health in the district. Initially, the VBCPS school board and superintendent of schools Dr. Aaron Spence did not plan to close schools and an emergency staff day was declared for Monday, March 16, to give adequate time for teachers to prepare virtual lesson plans in case of closures. 

Yet, unbeknownst to everyone, Friday, March 13, would be the last face-to-face teaching day of this school year. And, it only seems fitting then that ”Friday the 13th”, a menacing date for some, would be the end and the beginning of an invisible evil that would affect everyone not only in Virginia Beach, the school system, the state, the country, but throughout the world.

We were blindsided, for lack of a better word, as our lives began to change in ways we thought unimaginable. For students, the school year was entering its spring sports seasons, Ring Dance, Senior Prom and a myriad of celebrations students look forward to as a rite of passage.

All of the sudden, standardized (SOL) testing had been pushed back a day, while most citywide and school events were also, at the time, postponed, in accordance with a message from Governor Ralph Northam’s (D-Va.) office that limited large public gatherings for the time being. 

Before students, faculty, staff, parents, and everyone else that was alive knew what was happening, a slew of VBCPS postponements and a list of precautionary measures that students and families would need to take to prepare for possible school closures included: ensuring that students had internet access, medications were picked up from school clinics, students who relied on schools for food still had access to food sources and parents were alerted to preemptive child care scheduling. 

During the next two weeks that we were initially ordered out of school, VBCPS asked that teachers keep students learning “virtually” on a continuous learning plan. And through it all, VBCPS leaders, administrators, faculty, staff, students and parents held on to the hope that school itself and all of its events would be rescheduled and we would return to school after a brief hiatus.

At the time these measures were discussed and implemented, we were still holding tight for some good news, as there were no confirmed cases and/or COVID-19 related deaths in Virginia. We followed the news fervently and with hope in our hearts, until it became clear that the pandemic was spreading through the country like a California forest fire. More people began to test positive for the virus, “hotspots” developed and people began to die.

Then, before the end of the two weeks, Northam announced that all schools in the state of Virginia would shut down through June 10. What?

Hope was lost as spring sports seasons, annual junior and senior dances, Leadership Workshop, Falcon Forum, booster club events, induction ceremonies, senior day and even graduation; everything was put on hold.

Along with the obvious reasons for students to become upset over the newest and all encompassing cancellations, it was the first that seemed to be the hardest, the annual junior Ring Dance. And, Ring Dance was just one of the many cancellations that would prove to have a profound effect on many students. Furthermore, seniors would never have the chance to participate in activities that are generally deemed ‘right of passage’.

“End of the year dances and other activities that are meant to be fun gatherings with classmates, things we’ve waited for since we started high school, are now stripped away,” junior Emmy Finguerra said.

One could then describe this virus, this serial killer, that seemed so far away just a few weeks ago, as a nuisance, until it hit us.





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