Teacher walkout, historic flood, pandemic … Jenks 2020 seniors have been through a lot
When it comes to spring semesters, the Jenks High School Class of 2020 has gotten the raw end of the deal since they were sophomores.
Jenks senior Alysa Symsack was sitting in class last may on the final week of school studying for a final when her teacher informed the students that the remainder of the school year had been cancelled due to the enormous amount of flooding going on in the Tulsa area.
The Historic Arkansas River Flood of 2019 was creating havoc among communities along the river front and Jenks Public Schools was forced to make the decision to call off school a few days early.
“It was very last minute, so no one knew,” Symsack said. “We were all told it was pretty much pointless to keep studying for finals because we weren’t going to have to take them.”
A year earlier in the spring as sophomores, Symsack and her fellow Class of 2020 classmates were forced to miss time in school because of the Teacher Walkout that lasted from April 2 through April 12.
“During the Teacher Walkout, it wasn’t quite as scary because we only sophomores, but not knowing if we were actually going to return to school was pretty different,” Symsack said. “After the flooding happened, a lot of my friends and I talked about how we never got to have an actual spring semester without missing any school. We were all hoping our senior year would be different.”
Unfortunately for the Jenks Public Schools’ lifer and the rest of her 2020 senior classmates, it is not.
Jenks Public Schools entered Spring Break week March 16. It was during that time COVID-19 was tightening its grip on the country.
The school district decided to extend spring break through April 5 and on April 6, “distance learning” was commenced through the remainder of the school year, which ends May 15.
“When we left school for Spring Break, we did wonder if we would be coming back,” Symsack said. “There was a lot of talk between teachers and students about taking home our textbooks and Chrome books because we didn’t know if we would be returning. I thought we might be out for a couple of weeks, then to hear we wouldn’t be retuning at all, was really saddening.”
Symsack said after dealing with the Teacher Walkout in 2018, the flooding in 2019, she and her friends thought they would get to have normal senior spring in 2020.
“We were all pretty disappointed because we were really looking forward to this year,” Symsack said. “Distance learning has been pretty good. Some teachers are doing some interesting things to help us deal with it. I do still feel like I am getting stuff out of our distance learning”
Jenks Public Schools will have a virtual graduation on May 18 and is tentatively planning on a traditional graduation June 26 at the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
“It is disappointing to have to have a virtual graduation because I feel like graduation is what every high school student looks forward to,” Symsack said. “Getting the chance to wear your robe and walk across the stage is something we all have been excited about for a long time. Not only do we not get to have a normal spring semester, we don’t get to have a normal graduation.”
The Jenks senior said she is excited, however, about the possibility of the June 26 commencement.
“It would mean a lot to my family and I if we did get to have a traditional graduation,” Symsack said. “It would mean a lot to all my classmates and their families.”