Student life in a time of social distancing

This isn’t how Shane Raum thought his final year of high school would end.

As rapid change in the face of a viral threat grips societies around the globe, few corners of daily life have been spared the tumult, and students of all ages are no exception.

For Raum, a senior at Cottage Grove High School (CGHS), the disruption first came on the night of Thursday, March 12, when Governor Kate Brown directed all Oregon schools to close until March 31 — an order that was extended to April 28 just five days later.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the future began to quickly take on a new shape.

“Plans have changed, a lot actually,” Raum said in regard to his post-high school goals.

Before the news surrounding COVID-19 began pouring into our national consciousness, Raum — a member of the CGHS varsity soccer team as well as a photojournalist for the yearbook team — was sure he’d be attending Southern Oregon University (SOU) in the fall until he got a call from the men’s soccer coach at Lane Community College about an opportunity for a tryout to play there while also attending school.

But, like so many other things, virus fears and social distancing orders threw a wrench into that idea.

“The tryout was canceled due to the virus so now I’m unsure of 

whether I’ll wait for a reschedule or throw that plan away,” Raum said. “It’s too bad because I was really hoping to go that route over SOU.”

Now, like so many around the world, Raum is just taking things day by day, adhering to government directives and advice while trying to stay busy with so much in flux.

“Before this, I never spent a ton of time at home, so it’s been difficult finding things to do,” Raum said of all his newfound, homebound free time. “I’ve been going outside a lot whether it’s hiking, playing soccer or riding my scooter. Now is a great time to own puzzles and to have a sibling because, if not, you might go crazy.”

Though, despite still being a high school student, the sudden changes have touched Raum’s life in more ways than one and leave him — like so many working Americans of various ages — in a tough position in regard to doing their part to isolate and help “flatten the curve” in spreading COVID-19.

“Self-isolating hasn’t been easy, especially since I still work making pizzas. So, I’m constantly in the presence of other people, unfortunately.”

As for his immediate educational future, Raum is glad to be a student in a school district that he believes has handled all this recent turmoil as well as it could. This week, students get to enjoy their previously scheduled week off for spring break but will get their first taste of remote learning upon returning to school — at least virtually — next week.

“I think they’ve done everything really well,” Raum said. “I also really like that online courses will be coming soon. Now that everything has set in, I’ve had time to realize I’m okay with not going back and just finishing senior year online.”

The steps South Lane School District (SLSD) has taken to continue caring for its staff and students during the closure — providing continued meal delivery and making plans for online classes — has also had an added personal impact for Raum and his family.

“Keeping breakfasts and lunches going on, it helps many people and keeps my mom with a job since she’s the cafeteria manager.”

No one is certain when schools will reopen their doors. It’s within the realm of possibility that the school year is finished.

The only other time in recorded American history something like this occurred was the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak. A study by the University of Michigan Medical School’s Center for the History of Medicine concluded that cities who shut down schools and public gatherings early had lower peak mortality and overall morbidity rates than cities which did not.

This is all unprecedented. Plans have changed and will likely continue to do so. But, for now, students like Raum, and others like him around the country, will have to sit tight, social distance and simply see what the future holds while doing their part to curb the threat — all while also keeping an eye toward what the future holds.


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