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Seniors disappointed by Parson’s order to keep schools closed

By Brenda Meadows

Staff Writer

An order by Gov. Mike Parson on April 9 declaring that “all public schools and charter school buildings will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year” came as a disappointment to area high school seniors.

“Continuing our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, I am ordering all public and charter schools to remain closed through the remainder of this academic year, with the exception of nutrition and child care outlined in our Stay Home Missouri Order,” Governor Parson said.

The Hollister School District continues to communicate new information through its automated messaging system, social media sites and its COVID-19 webpage, as do other districts.

“We encourage families to continue to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC, Governor Parson, Taney County and the City of Hollister,” said Kim Connell, communications director for Hollister R-V School District. “Hollister families and the community have overwhelmingly shown that we are all in this together, that we will get through these tough times together and we will come out of this stronger because we truly are better together.”

Students will continue to study by “remote learning” and will complete their lessons until "the date previously set on their academic calendar,” which is mid-May. Teachers will continue to maintain weekly contact as well. Although students realize Gov. Parson’s decision was to stop the spreading of COVID-19, they are disheartened.

Senior Hunter Kearney-Doyle is missing his fourth year of track at Branson High School. (Special to Branson Globe)

Seniors won’t get to plan those special class outings or rallies usually taken by those getting ready to leave their alma mater. It might also mean they will not have a formal prom, nor will they get the traditional graduation they have looked forward to.

Branson High School senior Skyler Whitworth, who is a member of the Branson Dance Team, National Honors Society and was this year’s Courtwarming Queen, said cancelling school activities for the rest of this school year has changed many things for her.

“Not only will I not get to finish the rest of my senior year at my high school and with my peers, but I will miss all activities that are dedicated to celebrating the class of 2020,” she said. “It is hard to grasp that I will not experience the ‘lasts’ that many look forward to when they become seniors. I will not get to have my senior dance, team banquet or chalk my name outside of the school in departure.”

Skyler said since COVID-19 is unpredictable, it means seniors are uncertain.

“I hope that there will be something held to honor my class’s achievements,” Skyler said. “I will miss being able to close this chapter of my life with the people I grew up with. I may not experience getting to walk across the stage to accept the diploma I and all seniors have worked towards for 13 years. This time is hard for us and very upsetting.”

Forsyth High Senior Calley Matthews is also upset that she may miss out on the rest of her senior year.

Branson Senior Skyler Whitworth is on the school dance team and her boyfriend Max Petrucelli, also a senior, is on the Branson High wrestling team. (Special to Branson Globe)

Branson Senior Skyler Whitworth poses for her senior photos, which were taken before the onset of COVID-19.(Photo By Marshall Meadows)

“I think it's sad, not only for just us seniors but for every high school or middle schooler,” she said. “They're missing out on their education and missing out on making new friends and hanging with their friends they have now. I definitely feel like everyone who has a 2020 yearbook or looks at them will remember us seniors for this reason.”

Calley’s plans to visit cosmetology schools to decide on which one to attend have come to a halt.

“I had visited one, but had plans on visiting a couple more before making my decision on which one I wanted to attend,” she said. “With all that's happening the rest of my visits are put on hold. Yet, I do understand the concerns for everyone's safety.”

Calley is a member of Future Farmers of America (FFA) and was supposed to go to its State Convention this month.

“And while we were there I was supposed to walk across the stage in front of thousands of people and students, and receive my state FFA degree,” she said. “Now they're probably just going to have to mail it.”

Hunter Kearney-Doyle from Branson High is hopeful that an announcement will come out within the next 24 hours addressing the changes that will be made “due to these confusing times.”

Forsyth High School senior Calley Matthews will be missing the Future Farmers of America state convention where she was supposed to receive her FFA degree.

(Photo by Marshall Meadows)

Calley Matthews of Forsyth has made her last basket for the Forsyth Panthers Girls basketball team. (Photo By Marshall Meadows)

“I am a little upset as to the end of my last year at Branson High School being cut short,” he said. “Another thing that I am going to miss is getting to make memories with my classmates throughout the rest of the year as not only is school canceled, but a stay at home order has also been put in place.”

Hunter has been a member of Branson’s track team since he started high school. This season was going to be one that might determine his future.

“It saddens me to not be able to complete my final track season and get to run along side my teammates,” he said. “We hadn't even gotten to run our first meet and I was looking to draw a little more attention from college recruiters.”

There are certain ‘rights of passage’ associated with leaving high school and entering the adult world. One of them is the Senior Prom.

“I was really looking forward to going to prom with my girlfriend and sharing that memory of my last prom with her,” he said. “Last year's, prom was so fun and knowing that I'm not going to get to have that this year is disheartening. I'm hopeful that the school board will look into trying to move graduation and prom to some point in the summer.”

But Hunter had one more thing to add.

“I would also like to remind everyone to stay safe, stay six feet away and wash their hands,” he said “Spending time with your family is a great way to spend this extra time we all have. And just because everything is shut down doesn't mean you can't stay active and healthy.”

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