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Editorial: Continue trying to make senior year special

For most teenagers, there’s are a number of rites of passage to look forward to as adulthood approaches.

There’s the first, nerve-wracking day of high school. Then, it’s passing a drivers license test and taking that first drive alone, even if it’s along the same route your parents would drive to a friend’s house. Senior year of high school comes with a number of traditions by itself — a final homecoming, prom, the last day of school and graduation.

National estimates say most students go onto college, and that life path comes with its own rites of passage. That could include moving away from home, meeting a roommate for the first time and the first day of college classes. For students at some schools, there are large gatherings like the first home football game to look forward to as well.

But for the entire class of 2020, the class of COVID-19, things look a little bit different. There’s no senior prom. Here, schools have promised an in-person graduation at some uncertain date in the future. The last day of in-person classes came on a Friday the 13th in March.

Meanwhile, colleges are talking somewhat optimistically about classes in the fall. The UNC System says it expects to reopen in the fall, but it’s anyone’s guess whether the most responsible decision will be to allow students to move into dorms and move around campus as usual in a few months.

Carson High School Senior Bella Readling, who plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, aptly summed it up in just one sentence.

“It’s very disappointing for me,” she said.

Schools and the community have stepped up in new and different ways to honor this year’s seniors, by distributing signs, lighting up their stadiums at night and creating picture walls of graduates at local businesses. But none of those will replace what seniors might lose this year because of COVID-19. And it’s anyone’s guess whether next year’s seniors will have to endure similar disruptions.

While some rites of passage are not state-mandated and may not find their way into a handbook about best practices any time soon, Rowan-Salisbury Schools must continue to look for ways to make the class of 2020’s senior year a special one. That includes upholding the promise of an in-person graduation.

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