I have a niece who is a senior in high school and my sister (her mother) is a non-educator, so I’m acutely aware of all the thoughts going through their minds. After seeing many social media posts with concerns about seniors, I wanted to provide a sample communication that you may want to consider editing to suit your needs and sending to your kids. Below you will see the communication sent by MASSP President, Jennifer Bustard, the Principal at Mona Shores High School as well as a letter sent by her Superintendent Bill O'Brien. I know it is generally not a good idea to share information until you have a plan solidified and ready to execute but in times like these people need to know you are thinking of them and you won’t let them down.
– Wendy Zdeb, MASSP Executive Director
Hope this message finds you, your family and friends all doing well!
As we continue to closely monitor the status of schools in Michigan from the guidance we are given from the Michigan Department of Education and the Governor's office, we know that there is much speculation within our school community about whether or not we will have further extensions of school closures and what impact that this might have on our seniors, specifically in the areas of credits, end of the year celebrations, prom, graduation, etc. It is frustrating for all of us. Much of which we cannot control. But there are things we can control and that is with our efforts to commit to the containment procedures that begin with practicing Social Distancing, adhering to the Governor’s orders on unnecessary travel, hygiene and staying home. Sacrifice today will be critical for all.
While there remains much uncertainty, please know that we are planning for best case scenarios and worst case scenarios if, in fact, we do not return on April 13.
Our seniors have our full attention to ensure that steps are taken so that students will have the ability to earn their MSHS diploma. We are working on plans to Honor and celebrate the Class of 2020 with the many traditions we have in place. Prom, Honors Convocation, Graduation will take place regardless of our end of school date. It may mean that we reschedule these celebrations to a later time frame. Much of this is dependent on the guidance schools are given by the Michigan Department of Education. For now, we must stay patient as frustrating as that is. Schedules and plans will be shared as soon as possible.
Seniors, it is not a matter of “if” you will graduate. It is a matter of “when.” For now, we will stay hopeful and optimistic that we will return soon. As of today, we still plan on the original graduation date. We will continue to update you as we learn more from the MDE. Keep in contact and stay engaged with your teachers as they are working very hard to provide you with the best of learning opportunities.
Our teachers, staff and entire Sailor Nation community are thinking of you during this most challenging time. Below you will find a beautifully written letter to you from our HS English Department. Please take time to read, pause and reflect.
Stay strong! Stay together!
Dear High School Seniors:
Starting the week of March 9, we joked about the full moon and Friday the 13th; however, as the week progressed, I watched you struggle with things beyond your control: disappointments and frustrations and anxiety and what ifs. I wished I could fix it and tell you everything would be all right. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision March 13 and all that is following.
Early in the week, I tried to gently correct some of you who were excited for some extra time off because I knew it was not going to be what you thought it was going to be if it did occur. By Friday, most of you had figured that out. As I urged you to clean your computer and phones and to be sure to take everything home and as some of you watched me pack up and unplug things, this was not like leaving before break or even what it is like to have my seniors leave me at the end of the year. This was different. As one young lady stayed to talk to me at the end of class, I wanted to hug her, but knew that I shouldn’t, and so we both refrained. Each hour started with a conversation about what this would mean; I tried to just listen and offer reassurance as best I could. Students stood quietly around at the end of the day, looking at each other and at us teachers standing in the hallway; we were not sure exactly what to say. I watched almost all of you leave the building and watched many of my colleagues close their doors, all of us looking rather lost, not sure what our next steps would be, saying as we parted that this felt strange.
For me, I watched mostly my seniors on Friday. I had been feeling your pain all week as trips and performances and practices were cancelled and as other uncertainties loomed. You were angry that someone had not told you the truth, that someone had kept something from you, that someone kept promising what they now could not deliver. You were so anxious that all you have worked for during the last 13 years was somehow being taken away from you. You were right to be angry, but to be fair, none of us have been down this road. You have every right to feel anxious because none of us is certain about what exactly lies ahead.
As I have worked to prepare lessons for the days we are apart, I came across a letter from Chris Dier, a Lousiana Teacher of the Year, who wrote a letter to his seniors about the Coronavirus shutdown. He had something in common with them and with you; he was a senior when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. He spoke of leaving school on a Friday and never going back. Instead he spent the rest of his senior year in a shelter in a different state where he finished out his senior year. He told his seniors he shared their pain, acknowledged their pain and honored their right to feel angry and sad, but he also pointed out the tremendous potential and hope he has for them.
So I, along with the other teachers and staff, want you to know that we, too, feel your pain. We, too, feel for all of you that the senior year you have dreamed about seems to be heading in such a different direction. And more, we believe in you and your ability to make the most of this situation, to chart your own course. The direction the rest of this year takes and how you handle it is very much up to you, so here is some advice to help you take charge and navigate the coming weeks.
Be kind. Help others. Look for ways you can help out with grandparents or older neighbors, the ones who are most vulnerable. Help out around the house. Your parents are worried, too. They could use a break, not grief. Find ways that while you are keeping yourself and others safe by socially and physically distancing yourself to also keep each other close. Text, Tweet, Facetime, old-fashioned call, and any other means you have to keep tabs on each other and boost each others’ morale. Make goofy videos. Send images you have made or doctored. Create memes. Make videos doing the things you dreamed of doing just now - singing, running, pitching, playing. Reach out using all the skills and technology you have to keep us all connected. You are so capable of fluidly moving between the digital and physical world. Use that skill to help your friends and your family. Help out your teachers as we are all trying to find ways to help you get through your senior year in a way we never anticipated.
Be creative and engaged in living. Do yoga, draw, paint, juggle, knit. Keep a journal - hey folks, this is one for the ages - what you did during the shutdown and social distancing of 2020. Record what you do, how you feel, what you hear - this is history. Learn to do something - trust me, there are a lot of home improvement skills I wish I had right now. Get your mom or dad or grandparent or guardian or youtube to teach you how to do something. Cook dinner for the family. If you are good, they will be so grateful. If you are not, they will be patient while you learn. Read. It is how you upload software to your brain. Maybe try one of those books you were supposed to read for English class; you might even enjoy it. Find a way to make the most of the time, not just pass the time.
Please know that we all feel your loss very acutely. You are being forced to face the real world in all of its inadequacies and unfairness. Please also know, we care for you, and we value you. We are witness to all you have done. We want your senior year to be all that you imagined even if it is not exactly as you envisioned. We are here, working diligently to support you in all that you are and all that you dream of being. My faith is in each of you and your ability to overcome and adapt. This is the time for you to build your legacy, as Mrs. Bustard has encouraged you to do. And this is possibly the most epic time in your life to build it. For what do you want to be remembered after your senior year? Think of those aforementioned acts of kindness, of showing strength, of acquiring a new skill, of passing on to others all that you learned. This is the time to dig deep and discover more of who you are meant to be, to challenge yourself. When we come out on the other side of this, who will you be?
No matter what the next few weeks bring, we are all on your team as you finish out your year, your senior year, the Class of 2020. This is your time.
If you want to read all of Mr. Dier’s letter, it is here in this link.
Forward written by Jennifer Bustard, Principal at Mona Shores High School and MASSP Board President, and Bill Obrien, Superintendent of Mona Shores Public Schools. Letter to Seniors written by Kimberly Bradshaw, along with contributions from Judy Hunt, Shelly Brower, Roxanne Schaner, and Jolynn Walek, on behalf of the staff of Mona Shores High School