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‘Roll with the punches.’ High school seniors trying to make the best of pandemic


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Hillcrest High Schoolers during the recent Homecoming Parade. | Courtesy Hillcrest High School Facebook

IDAHO FALLS — Making the most of your last year of high school isn’t easy during a global pandemic, but local seniors are still doing what they can to make the most of their final year.

The final year of high school is typically marked by senior nights at sporting events, school dances and walking across a stage in a cap and gown at graduation. But this year, masks, social distancing and other COVID-19 safety precautions have been thrown into the mix, making for a unique school year.

“We’re trying our hardest here at Hillcrest (High School) to work and provide all the same activities that we did pre-COVID,” Student Body President and member of the football team, Demik Hatch said. “It’s not going to be the perfect year, … but we’re working our hardest to make it as perfect as we can.”

Hillcrest has made changes to how things are done at school during the pandemic. The school band moved from the bleachers to the football field for games to eliminate spreading germs while playing their instruments, and choir classes are now held in the auditorium so students can spread out.

One of the biggest changes has to do with the timing of the Homecoming dance. Homecoming itself was held earlier this month, but the dance was strategically moved to the end of November right before Thanksgiving break. That way, if students who are at the dance come down with the virus, there’s a nine-day quarantine window already built into the schedule due to Thanksgiving.

Down the road aways, Ririe Junior-Senior High School has also made several adjustments due to COVID-19. The school is live streaming all of its classes for students who are at home and no assemblies are being held. Instead, Karlee Cysewski, a teacher and student council advisor, said the student council makes videos ahead of time for teachers to play for the students.

“It has been a little difficult to plan various activities as a student council, as we are unsure what will happen with COVID-19 and whether we will be able to meet in person,” Kayleigh Kearsley, senior class vice president at Ririe Junior-Senior High School explained. “We have done our best to stay positive and encourage others to do the same.”

One way they have tried to spread cheer during COVID-19 is by initiating a school motto. The school motto is “just keep swimming.”

“We handed out little rubber ducks with this motto written on it to each student,” Kearsley said. “We do our best to keep our heads up and keep trying.”

Moving forward despite the challenges associated with COVID-19 is something Raegan Olsen, Hillcrest senior class president, also agrees is important. She wants students to remember that because COVID-19 is a new virus, people are trying to deal with it as best as they know how to.

The students agree that a positive attitude goes a long way at times like this, and Tyler Mills, Hillcrest assistant principal, who also serves on the District 93 Safety Committee for all the extracurricular activities, has noticed that too.

“I couldn’t be more impressed with our teachers, our district leadership and most of all, with our students. They are the real All-Stars,” he said. “We really appreciate everything they do, and they’re making the best out of the situation they’ve been put in.”

Hatch encourages students to focus on all the things they still get to do this year during a pandemic, instead of focusing on the things that they don’t.

“It’s important to mask up, put a smile on your face — even though you can’t see it — … and roll with the punches,” Hatch said.