Tuesday, 16 March 2021 19:07

COLUMN: The school day that wasn't

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COLUMN: The school day that wasn't Leah Melvin

The date of  Monday, March 16, 2020 posted on my white erase board is a source of conversation. That date will soon be a year old. Of the very few visitors who have been to my room,  many ask the significance of that date. I consider Monday, March 16, 2020 as the school day that never happened. 

Little did I know when writing the learning target and that date for the upcoming Monday’s biology lesson everything was about to take a serious change. The next day, Saturday, Gov. Roy Cooper would announce the temporary closure of North Carolina Public Schools until the end of March. 

Teachers, parents, and most importantly students were forced to rearrange their lives and to charge head into remote learning. Learning packets and education platforms were to replace traditional classroom learning. Work schedules/employment would be impacted as parents had lost a large component of their child’s daily routines and were forced to improvise new ways of working and caring for their children. In the beginning, the shutdown was an inconvenience that soon morphed into a year-long way of life.

As the spring pushed on, reopening of school would be pushed back numerous times, enveloping the Easter/Spring Break holidays, until finally the rest of the school year had vanished. So many events of that spring had to be canceled: baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, the senior trip, the powderpuff football game, and prom.

The most devastating event victim of the school year was graduation. Seniors and their families in Richmond County, and all parts of  North Carolina for that matter, were heartbroken by the loss of the graduation ceremony, something that they had anticipated and strived for 13 long years. Graduation is and has been a celebration of accomplishment, a rite of passage and a time for families to come together and honor that year’s senior.

Sadly, a traditional graduation was not to be.

Outside of the school experience, other freedoms were lost in the wake of this virus: attending community ball games, gathering with friends/family, dining out, celebrating birthdays, shopping, visiting museums to name a few. To combat a growing sense of isolation, schools invented other ways to celebrate student achievement: parades, banners, light shows, social media posts and luminaries to honor the grads.

The result: a sense that “we are all in this together” encouraged us to persevere.

While the pandemic is still upon us, we hope that we are seeing a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, that school and community can soon resume the activities that we have so desperately missed. There are scars of loved ones lost directly or indirectly to the pandemic that we will carry forever. Memories of the school year that wasn’t will be told to our children for years to come.

I have erased the learning target and have really forgotten what it was for that day. I think that it had something to do with DNA, but I have kept the date March 16,2020 vowing to change that date only when school is restored to normal activities.

School-time activities that have been so desperately missed by students, parents, administrators, faculty and staff are slowly and cautiously returning. I prefer to reflect on lessons learned of how Richmond County students, parents, administrators, club sponsors, faculty and staff have improvised and pulled together to fight a microscopic virus that threatened so much. Perhaps, there was a bigger learning target to be taught.

Leah Melvin is a biology teacher at Richmond Senior High School.