Middle Park seniors make plans for uncertain future with graduation on Saturday
As Lela Myers enjoyed the last couple months at Middle Park High School, she realized how fast her senior year was flying by.
Lela was trying to participate as fully as possible and go to all the events she could make it to. She had wrapped up the school musical and was practicing for her last soccer season with high hopes.
Her first soccer game was scheduled for the day everything was canceled.
“I’ve been told that senior year is going to be my year,” Lela said. “Then right when we were realizing that, it all got taken away.”
Around that same time, senior Jack Orear was skiing in a competition at Vail, but the last two days of the event were canceled as the wave of March closures began. Soon after, all schools in Grand County closed to in-person learning.
“It was more of a shock than anything else because no one expected this in a million years,” Jack said. “It happened very quickly.”
As it became clear to both students they wouldn’t be going back to school, the seniors tried to adjust to an unfamiliar level of independent learning. Beyond that, they had to get used to not seeing their friends or teachers every day.
For Jack, adjusting was difficult, but things could have been worse if school had stayed open.
“I just felt that I wasn’t being impacted as much as people could be if they had relatives that were sick and dying,” he said. “It was sort of a perspective thing for me, where I realized I wasn’t losing as much as some people might have lost if we had stayed in school and hadn’t changed things. But it was certainly hard.”
Jack, Lela and the rest of Middle Park’s graduating class will be saying goodbye on Saturday in a way they didn’t imagine.
“I guess I was expecting a little bit more closure,” Jack added. “It’s sort of surreal that it’s ending this way.”
Principal Cindy Rimmer and other school officials worked hard to make this a ceremony the Class of 2020 won’t soon forget by obtaining a fleet of golf carts. Provided by Grand Elk Golf Club and Granby Ranch Golf Course, each graduate will get a cart to share with up to three family members.
The students will receive their diplomas and then parade through town.
The graduation plans took multiple revisions as public health guidance changed, but school staff made it clear they want the ceremony to be special for the students. And students have noticed.
“I really just appreciate Ms. Rimmer going to all the effort that she went through to get the graduation plan approved,” Jack said. “I think that’s really special. I think that’s not something a lot of principals would go through for their students.”
Temperatures will be checked before the ceremony and students will have to follow social distancing, so the typical celebratory hugs will be missing. Even with the graduation, the students will be losing out on a lot of other traditions meant to conclude the high school experience.
“I’m hoping for some type of closure, but I’m struggling to see how it could be a reality,” Lela added.
Both students are heading out of state for college with Jack going to the University of Alabama to study aerospace engineering and Lela going to the University of Florida. While orientation has been moved online for the soon-to-be college freshmen, both their campuses look like they’ll be opening this fall.
Of course, the pandemic remains a stressor on the students’ minds. While it has already warped the end of her high school career, Lela hopes there won’t be a second wave as she starts university.
“I don’t want the country to open up so much that it causes a resurgence, and completely changes my life again once I’ve started at college,” Lela said. “I want people to be safe and remember there’s a pandemic out there. Just because the rules are loosening doesn’t mean it’s safe to go expose yourself to hundreds of people.”
Jack, who was only just beginning to think about his move to Alabama, was optimistic there could be some sort of ceremony later in the summer when guidelines are loosened so that he can say goodbye.
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US Forest Service officials have closed Willow Creek Reservoir in Grand County because of a potential blue-green algae bloom.