Walking through Gettysburg Area High School’s halls during the last period of the day on March 13 felt like strolling through the opening scene of a disaster movie. In my memory, an ominous hum of violins accompanies the routine trip down the hallway suggesting that calamity will soon strike. However, unlike the movies, no thunderous tsunami suddenly rolled through the school, and no chaotic earthquake split the ground beneath my feet. Instead, every room received a simple phone call explaining that we would take a two-week break from in-person classes. Distressed teachers tried to explain to jubilant students why leaving school was no reason to celebrate. This two-week “carona-cation,” soon morphed into three weeks, then into a month, and eventually the closing of all public schools for the remaining two months of the school year. The year was to be finished totally remotely.
Going online required everyone to learn how to use Zoom and adapt to new forms of instruction after being out of school for a month. Thankfully, despite these challenges, teachers rose to the occasion. All my teachers hosted daily meetings, responded promptly to emails, and came up with creative assignments. My math teachers used soup cans to construct camera mounts that allowed us to watch as they solved practice problems. Other teachers opened YouTube channels, enabling them to post lectures for their students. The perseverance of my teachers inspired me to continue to work hard during the pandemic. Unfortunately, as the school year dragged on, the number of students that continued to engage began to dwindle. In the fourth quarter of the year, the school decided to switch to a pass/fail grading standard due to the obvious educational challenges. This compounded the lack of student engagement as the incentive to show up disappeared. My school year ended after completing my online 45-minute Advanced Placement (AP) exams — comprehensive tests that typically last three hours.