Rising seniors across central Alabama go into final year of high school with hope despite COVID-19 pandemic

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala (WIAT) — Senior year in high school is considered by many to be one of the most memorable times in a young person’s life.

But for the Class of 2021, the pomp and circumstance may be clouded with social distancing and even some big events being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leading up to the start of the school year, CBS 42 reporter Landon Wexler spoke to different rising seniors about their feelings on the upcoming school year, their worries, and their hopes.

CBS 42 Digital Reporter Landon Wexler speaks with local high school seniors.
A high school drum line practicing for a homecoming week .

“A lot of activities (in the) first semester, like homecoming, which is my favorite time of the year, and I was really excited about it this year,” Otts said. “I think events like that…they may still happen, but they’re not going to be the same at all.”

Sally Otts, a rising senior and majorette at Oak Mountain High School, is hopeful she’ll still get to experience traditional high school events, but not the way she’s used to.

Experiencing all the staples of the final year of high school had been in her plans.  But then, the rapid spread of the coronavirus led to some changes.

Buddy Anderson Field at Vestavia Hills High School.

So what will Friday nights on the football field look like?

“Football season isn’t even going to be close to the same this year,” Vestavia Hills High School senior and football defensive end Carter Tyus said.

Tyus said there are numerous rules and guidelines the team must follow to play.

“So we have to be six feet apart and have our masks on, unless we have our helmet on,” Tyus said.

Crowds will be spaced out, as well as the student section that often energizes both the players and cheering onlookers. 

Vestavia Hills High School senior and defensive end for their football team, Carter Tyus.

“The student section is not even going to be close to the same,” Otts said. “They won’t even be able to be close to each other.”

Traditional high school dances like homecoming, winter formal, and prom will also have to adjust to allow for social distancing.

So if schools do hold dances, what would one look like?

A high school football student section rooting on their team in close proximity. This is not likely to happen at 2021 events.

“They’ll definitely try to keep people apart, social distancing as much as possible but not the same atmosphere really,” OMHS senior and band member Evan Jones said.

However, senior year isn’t all about fun and games. Students often use this year to give their grade point averages and resumes a last little boost, something this group will be missing out on.

A picture from the front of Oak Mountain High School.

“We also missed out on opportunities like ACT testing and boosting our resumes for college,” Otts said. “I feel like that’s just going to make not only high school life different, but applying to college and taking the next steps after college a lot more difficult.” 

After having all these experiences taken away from the Class of 2021, what needs to happen for these students to feel complete?

“It’s not going to be great like in terms of other years,” OMHS senior and golf team member Hall Welborn said. “We’re going to have to make it great in terms of what we have. Because it’s not going to be great if we’re talking about other years, but this year if we have football games, pep rallies, some resemblance of before, I’d be happy with it.”

Otts and the others are just hoping for a last shot at memories with their class.

“Just making the most of any chance I get with my friends, is really all I’m going to remember,” Otts reflected. “All the good times I had with them. So as long as I get some opportunity, then I’ll be okay with it.”

Now, the Class of 2021 is crossing their fingers in hopes that they’ll get to toss their graduation caps together in May.

Hoover High School Commencement 2018.

As the school year begins, CBS 42 will be following this group of local seniors as they endure what most teenagers have never had to before.


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