Cape Breton Post
Pandemic times at Cape Breton high schools
Local grads share their experiences
SYDNEY — The South Bar teen's emerald green prom dress sparkled in the sun as she walked through her backyard.
This might be the furthest Laura Colford walks in it because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I didn't even get it hemmed because I wasn't even sure if we'd have a prom," said Laura Colford, a Riverview High School graduate.
Bought second-hand, the dress has never made it to a prom; the 2020 graduate who originally bought it left it hanging after COVID pandemic protocols forced proms to be cancelled in Nova Scotia.
For a second year, there will be no proms for high school students and graduation ceremonies have been adapted. Some schools, like Riverview, have graduation by appointment with a limited number of guests watching the graduate walk the stage.
Other smaller schools, if there is room, have socially distanced seating for a limited number of guests.
"It's honestly been kind of a roller coaster," said Colford, 17, about going to high school during a pandemic.
"I think the shift between online school and in person
school has definitely affected me in ways I probably don't even know. I think the schools did the best they could with the transition between online and in-person, but I definitely think it was a challenge for students to adapt to the different circumstances we were thrown into."
The award-winning dancer also missed out on her last inperson competition season. Instead of four or five competitions, Colford only danced live on one stage.
"As a high school student it's really hard to hear we can't do these things. I wish there was a way around it," said Colford.
"I wish I knew my last dance competition (that I attended in April) was going to be my last. I have danced for the past 15 years of my life and I worked really hard this year ... virtual competitions just aren't the same."
The past two years meant the 2021 grads went through two school closures, two provincial lockdowns and a very different back-to-school.
"It was odd going into school, seeing everyone in masks, social distancing, not talking to each other in class," said Logan Prosper, 18, a graduate of We'koqma'q Mi'kmaw School and hockey player with the Cape Breton West Islanders. "For the first while we even had to wear our masks at our desks."
"It was very surreal. It's something I'll never forget," said Colford.
Gregory Francis, a Sydney Academy honour roll student from Membertou, said he was happy to return to in-person learning after finishing last year at home. He found the health safety measures easy to follow.
"Being in-person is better because I can see my friends," said the 17-year-old who has autism.
He also found benefits to some of the new health protection protocols like the bottled water instead of the water fountains.
"It kind of tasted better,"
said Francis, who hopes to open a restaurant called Habs Fans in the future after getting his diploma and restaurant experience.
AT HOME LEARNING
Students were close to finishing the full 2020-2021 year inperson when the third wave hit hard in April and forced school closures across the province on April 28.
"(Some of the challenges were) not being able to see my friends or hang out, not being able to play road hockey," said Prosper, who is attending St. Mary's University next year.
"You have to try really hard to stay healthy. To work on your mental health (during a lockdown like that)."
Colford found the online learning challenging, even though she felt it was better this year.
"I need human interaction to learn. With the (virtual classroom) we see a face and we hear a voice but it's not the same as in person. I find it difficult to be an active
listener and learner with online classes," said Colford, who kept her marks up and received a $23,000 scholarship from Dalhousie University where she will study neuroscience starting this fall.
"I tried to do the at-home learning the first time but I just couldn't," Prosper said, agreeing it was better this year..
Francis liked the virtual classroom this school closure because it allowed him to see his friends. With plans to study culinary arts at Nova Scotia Community College Marconi Campus in 2022 after doing the Achievement Program for a year, Francis said he has good memories from his last year of high school regardless of the pandemic.
"I will probably miss everything about high school," Francis said.
Prosper also has more good memories than bad.
"There still was a lot of fun through the year," he said. "I don't think I would want to have it any other way now."