A fraction of Maryland high school students attending Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland are back in classrooms for the first time since March 2020, offering 12th graders anything but a traditional senior year experience.
About 30% of Prince George’s County students are returning to classrooms in time to finish the school year, according to the school system.
But Eduardo Vera, a senior at Bowie High School, is not one of them. He’s among the students finishing the academic year the same way he started it: on a computer screen.
Vera’s parents, along with his input, decided he would finish his senior year in a virtual setting, since none of them have received a COVID-19 vaccine yet.
“Of course there are some physical in-building experiences I would have liked to experience, unfortunately I won’t be able to experience that,” Vera said. “It is disappointing, but we’re currently in the COVID-19. I could do it, but it’s better to be safe, you know? Take precaution.”
Vera said one thing he will miss is prom. He said he has no idea if one is even happening yet, but he has already resigned himself already to the fact he is probably not going.
And there are other moments one can only experience as a high school senior, moments Vera said he will never get to have.
“Mostly it’s that feeling of being a senior at a high school. It’s like you made it and sort of like a sense of respect you get for working that hard. That’s probably what I’m going to miss the most of not being able to be at the building.”
The online aspect of virtual learning has at times been a bumpy road, but more often than not, Vera said it has been rather smooth.
He said the hard part has been cultivating relationships with teachers, which is something that Zoom just can’t allow for to the same degree that face-to-face conversations can.
Vera said he misses his friends too; Apple FaceTime or online conversations can’t replicate the bonds forged when you’re with them in person. “I really took that for granted,” he said.
“Of course I’m able to talk to my friends through calls and online, but it’s a whole different experience going outside. A whole lot of different things can happen outside you weren’t even expecting. Good or bad. You know?”
While Vera finishes his high school career in ways he’s not thrilled about, he has taken time to reflect on ways the experience has helped.
“It’s helped me in a way that,” he said before trailing off, trying to find the right words.
“Mostly this has taught me more about how to deal with stuff at home. I’ve also been able to learn more stuff about what I want to do because I’ve had more time. When you go to school you don’t have a lot of time, you come home tired,” he said.
“I’ve been able to gain more knowledge about the career I want to choose,” added Vera, who said he plans to attend Bowie State University in the fall.
“I’ve also realized friends are cool, but they can also be distractions. It’s made me more disciplined in that aspect where I’m focused. Sometimes I sway off and luckily I have my parents to get me back on track.”