How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting students? Who better to tell us than students themselves. Last month, LebTown reached out to all Lebanon County school districts soliciting articles from juniors and seniors who wanted to write about their experience. Today we’re publishing a submission from ELCO senior Janet Keens.

From the start of my senior year, it was filled with countless surprises. Getting used to our school’s new renovations, being selected for the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), to being voted Homecoming Queen. But the next surprise was something I could’ve never guessed: a global pandemic caused by an infectious disease called COVID-19 (commonly known as coronavirus) causing all school systems and non-essential businesses to be shut down in effect on Friday, March 13, until the end of the month, March 30.

Homecoming court 2019-2020 (pictured): Savannah Lewis, Matthew Sweinhart, Julia Badolato, Chance Petruska, Elizabeth Lattanze, Zachary Groff, Tatum Landis, Hunter Churnich, Evelyn Firestine, Mitchell Gray, Janet Keens, Macauley Beard, Kylie Stine, Ryan Miller, Olivia Balsbaugh, Austin Sprenkle, Julia Gettler, Ethan Balderamma, Sabryna Orifino, Ashton Laucks.

So, two weeks out of school? Not so bad! Or so I, along with the rest of my classmates, thought. Everyone went about their normal routine with the exception of going to school, so it felt like a second round of Holiday Break for free! But what we didn’t realize was the extremity of the virus and how it was going to affect the rest of the school year. Well, it soon became apparent that we were never returning to fulfill the rest of the 2019-2020 year as Governor Tom Wolf extended school closures for the remainder of the academic year. “What does this mean as far as schooling goes?” was my mother’s and many other parent’s questions when faced with the ordeal. Letters upon emails upon messages were sent out to update parents on what our school district would be implementing to continue with grades and so fourth. ELCO first started distributing iPads for student use when I was in middle school, and we used them daily (in some classes more than others) so we were already pretty familiar with using technology for schoolwork. Using Schoology would be a whole new resource for some, though, as every class would be assigning work through the app and assignments would be graded as a “Pass/Fail” format. To further the feeling of a virtual classroom, Zoom meetings would be hosted by teachers to help improve the communication from teacher to student. The other question was what about students that don’t have access to WiFi or internet? Our school system made sure that students who could not access the internet were still connected with their teachers through paper packets.

January Students of the Month (pictured): Skylar Liskey, Janet Keens, Ryan Miller, Erik Williams.

During this “coronacation,” I was able to reach out to fellow classmates about their first thoughts when learning of the shutdown. Senior Sabryna Orfino said, “I was upset because it’s my senior year and I wanted to keep creating those last memories with my classmates!” Sabryna, along with many other seniors, were crushed when faced with the reality that that last day we were there, was really our last. Senior Tatum Landis said, “I was devastated because there were still parts of my senior year that I wanted to remember, that I will never be able to experience.”

As for sports, I am only a fall tennis athlete so I was fortunate to perform throughout the season. But, as for spring athletes who were only granted with one to two weeks of practice, their season would come to an abrupt halt. Seniors on those teams were faced with not only not being able to play through the season, but never being able to throw their last pitch or finish their last race. Baseball player, senior Jude Anthony said, “I never would have thought that my last time on a baseball field would be for a practice in March. None of the seniors on the team are planning on playing in college, which makes it even worse. Don’t take anything for granted and play every game and practice like it’s your last, because it could be,” he continued, “While `I believe that the lessons I’ve learned will teach me a lot in the long run, it hurts right now.”

Girls’ Tennis Seniors (pictured): Rimma Grinev, Janet Keens, Julia Gettler, Julia Badolato.

Other students from my school are also helping out in many ways whether it be in the community, at their job, or in their homes while their parents go to work. Senior Paola Lebron is helping make masks to distribute to anyone in need. Senior Rebecca Sargent is working at StoneRidge in Myerstown delivering meals to the nursing home residents. As many more who have younger siblings are staying home to take care of them while parents are still out there working or who may have tested positive with COVID-19, and especially parents who are in the medical field who are quarantined. I, for one, am also still going to work as I work at a local franchised restaurant. We are considered essential as we continue to provide food for our customers and market small grocery items that may save the time of going to a big grocery store for just a few items.

RaiderThon Presidents (pictured): Devon Rosengrant, Janet Keens.

All in all, as the coronavirus has affected my life in many ways including school, my job, and family and friends, it has taught me not to take the freedom and availability we have for granted and to make light of everyday; even if you’re ​extremely​ bored. Go for a walk, play with your pets, call an old friend. Life may not be the same after this all comes to an end, but that’s okay. We’re all in this together.

Do you have a message of encouragement for students going through this ordeal? Let us know and we’ll pass them along.


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