‘Everything is up in the air’: ELHS Students React to School Closure

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Monday, March 16, 2020, 11:33 am
Amalia Medina

Above: ELHS student providing hand sanitizer before schools were closed (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

The past week has been anything but normal. And life at East Lansing High School was no exception.

On Monday and Tuesday, students constantly chatted about the Coronavirus. But, it seemed like it was not going to be a problem they would have to deal with.

Then, on Tuesday night, two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Michigan.

On Wednesday, MSU encouraged students to go home, with the announcement that all in-person classes would immediately move to online instruction. ELHS students with duel-enrollment at the university were directly influenced by this measure.

On Wednesday evening, events were canceled, and cases were popping up in nearly every state.

Students came into school the next day. They wiped tables and keyboards down with Clorox wipes. “Does anyone have hand sanitizer?” became the start of every conversation. They opened doors with their elbows and turned down high-fives. A few students wore masks.

On Thursday evening, the "Little Women" musical was canceled. Winter sports were cut short, and spring sports were stopped in their tracks.

That night, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that schools would be closing for the following three weeks starting Monday.

So, Friday was their last day for at least a month. Many were not there, either due to their own worry or their parents not allowing them to go.

That day, most teachers sat down and answered questions that the students had; they were mainly about AP tests, the SAT, spring sports, prom and when, or if, they would be returning to school.

“I think it’s good that the teachers have been trying to calm everyone down,” Jenna Benbraham, a student at ELHS, said. “They’re taking it seriously, but they’re also making sure that we know that this is for our health and safety.”

Though the conversations with the teachers created a sense of comfort, students still felt anxious about what would come next.

“It’s stressful because, obviously, I don’t think that we’re going to die from it, but the way that it’s affecting everything else is just stressful,” Ty Morrison said. “There’s so much information coming from every which way, and, to be honest, I have no idea what’s real and what’s fake.”

Along with the feelings of stress and anxiety, students felt sad because they wouldn’t be seeing their friends and classmates for a month.

“Yesterday after school I was talking with my dad and I was like, ‘do you know how happy I’d be without a week of school?’” Gloria Zink said. “But then last night, ever since they announced that school’s going to be closing, and we’re not going to see each other for four weeks, I haven’t stopped crying.”

 “I mostly feel bad for seniors because this is their last year of high school, and the springtime is one of the most eventful and important times, and they have to miss so much,” Benbraham said. “Everything is up in the air.”

One of those seniors, Raegan Ooten, is particularly disappointed. Last year before the soccer season, she tore her ACL and couldn’t play on the team. Now, this is her second year in a row that she will not be playing.

“As a senior, I’m not going to see these people ever again, and I thought I was going to have all these memories with them these next few weeks,” Ooten said. “We had flockey and spring sports, and now I don’t have any of it. I missed out on my junior season because I tore my ACL, but now I’m missing out on my senior season because of the Coronavirus.”

As the students left on Friday, they didn’t know when they would see each other next, and when their “normal” lives would start again.

“What am I supposed to do?” Ooten said. “Everything’s stopped.”

REMINDER: The City of East Lansing is under a State of Emergency and you are encouraged to practice social distancing. Read more about what the state of emergency means. ELi has a special section dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for East Lansing. See it here and sign up for ELi's mailer to stay informed.

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