An Empty Den

DMHS seniors are 'an inspiration' in face of COVID-19

Masked+Grief

Courtesy of Megan Yarnall

MASKED GRIEF--Megan Yarnall (12) uses a chalk pastel on gray canson paper for an International Baccalaureate Art HL exhibition. "Honest emotion is the easiest thing to portray because staying truthful comes organically, but it's also somehow the most difficult because you have to make yourself vulnerable with your work. I'm not one to typically expose that vulnerability through what I create, but seeing as the portrait represented a universally-shared grief, it felt right." Yarnall finished the sketch in about five hours, "which is about 5 weeks faster than normal. "

Katie Kustudia, Editor-in-chief

Instead of waking up in the early morning, driving to school, and spending at least five hours behind a desk in a Desert Mountain classroom, students have spent the final quarter of the school year reorganizing their closets, dyeing their hair, experimenting in the kitchen, and taking up brand-new hobbies. 

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: COVID-19 and its impact on the Desert Mountain community.

COVID-19 has impacted the world in ways that people could have never foreseen.  With major outbreaks in China, Italy, and the United States of America, it has instilled a sense of fear, sorrow, and uncertainty into the hearts of people all over the world.

As of April 8th, 2020, the United States suffered 395,011 cases, with Arizona being home to 2,885 of those cases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Although Arizona’s numbers are easy to ignore when compared to that of the whopping 140,386 cases in New York or even the 18,970 cases in Michigan, Arizonans have realized the gravity of this pandemic and have made temporary changes to their daily life.

I am most upset about losing the time I had with all my friends, teachers, and classmates. I knew one day I would have to accept the fact, as a soon-to-be-out-of-state student, that I would leave behind everyone I love. Unfortunately, that day came a lot earlier than I would have liked.””

— Senior Sydney Becraft

Perhaps the largest change is the executive order issued by Governor Doug Ducey on March 23, 2020. This order made cities coordinate stay-at-home orders and stated that all essential businesses would stay open no matter the circumstances. Some essential businesses listed in the executive order include grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and golf courses. 

Yes, golf courses. Welcome to Scottsdale.

School districts all across the state took necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which led to the permanent closure of schools everywhere, including Desert Mountain. This meant Desert Mountain’s principal, Dr. Lisa Hirsch and the rest of the Desert Mountain staff had to quickly implement online classes for all DMHS students within days of the notice.

 “We planned, we learned about Microsoft TEAM and we watched as the tech department worked to deal with online learning, equipment, hot spots and tech for kids, meals for kids, and making our teachers move to a platform that for some was brand new and for most was partially in place,”  said Dr. Hirsch. 

‘So many losses’

Luckily, Scottsdale is one of the better places to be at a time like this. Many of the people in our community are healthy and safe; in Desert Mountain’s 85259 zip code, there have only been about 6-10 cases of COVID-19 total, according to azfamily.com. 

However, this does not change the sense of loss (to a lesser degree than other people’s loss around the world, of course) within our school’s community, especially among the senior class.  

No final prom. No final meets and games for senior athletes. No Project GRAD trip. 

No graduation. 

Not even a chance to say a proper goodbye to the teachers and classmates they will probably never see again. 

I am sad that my senior will miss out on some of the fun traditions of senior year. It is disappointing that there are so many losses…this event has now shaped her life and will now be part of her life story.”

— Parent Ellen Douglass

“Ever since I was little I have been looking forward to my graduation…to be able to walk across the stage to receive my diploma and throw my cap into the air,” says senior Sophie Taylor.  

While it is important to understand the privilege of good health and well-being, it is also okay to acknowledge what has been lost on a smaller scale.  

“I am most upset about losing the time I had with all my friends, teachers, and classmates. I knew one day I would have to accept the fact, as a soon-to-be-out-of-state student, that I would leave behind everyone I love,” said senior Sydney Becraft. 

“Unfortunately, that day came a lot earlier than I would have liked.” 

Senior Megan Yarnall the people–not the events–are what is missed the most.

“Prom, graduation, senior breakfast, and all of the other missing pieces of our senior year were a tough loss but a quick grieve,” she said. “It’s the closure with the rest of my peers that I am having a harder time letting go of. 

“Until then, we’re all just playing a game of trying to stay entertained until we go off to college.”

Students were not alone in this feeling of defeat. 

“I am sad that my senior will miss out on some of the fun traditions of senior year. It is disappointing that there are so many losses,” said Ellen Douglass, parent of senior Lauren Douglass. “…this event has now shaped her life and will now be part of her life story.”

The new normal

There’s no denying that maintaining optimism during these trying times is extremely difficult. 

However, parents, administrators, teachers and students have made major strides to create a sense of normalcy within everyone’s daily lives.

 In regard to the senior activities, DMHS Principal Dr. Hirsch, along with two DM teachers and senior students, formed a committee to explore ways to make the end of the year as special as possible.

“Through some excellent communication and realization and participation of Wolf Den and Stugo student leaders,” said Dr. Hirsch, “the parents came together with the PTO to be sure we would not eliminate anything and try to keep the class of 2020 cohesive throughout the process.”

As for the closures of school for the rest of the year, the new platform has pleasantly surprised students in its similarity to regular, in-person classes.  

“Even though school is closed, I actually enjoy my online classes, said Becraft. “We have live lectures where we get to interact with our classmates and teacher.”

Similarly, Sophie Taylor (12) said that while working online “does feel like normal” at times. 

Student feedback to parents echoes this message of positivity. 

“The teachers have been on top of things, providing assignments, recorded lectures and live zoom calls. This has provided a bit of normalcy for my student which is nice…they have done a great job of diving in and figuring it all out,” said Mrs. Douglass. 

There is no way a class held via zoom calls and homework done through Microsoft Teams will be able to feel just like being in the classrooms of Desert Mountain. 

Senior class ‘an inspiration’, principal says

But through the work of teachers and students alike, the Desert Mountain community has cooperated in making the transition into such a drastic change a smooth one. Teachers and other staff members have offered support to students through several mediums during this move to the online platform–and continued to do so through the rest of the year. 

Dr. Hirsch “never doubted the teachers needed anything but themselves to get the online learning to begin.”

“Desert Mountain has a motivated group of teachers who think about their students all of the time,” Hirsch said.

I feel Desert Mountain seniors are some of the most incredible young people in existence today.”

— DMHS Principal Dr. Lisa Hirsch

In the face of this historic crisis, Dr. Hirsch shared some words of encouragement for the senior class.

“I feel Desert Mountain seniors are some of the most incredible young people in existence today,” Hirsch said. “I also feel impressed with the entire student body. Your class has been an inspiration to me when I am feeling down and exhausted. Your spirit has always been special and connected to what is right in this world!”  

As the Desert Mountain community bands together to make a bad situation more bearable, our parents remind us that we could be in a much worse situation–and that remaining optimistic is one much needed essential. 

“All we can do,” said Mrs. Douglass, “is accept that is sometimes how life goes and move forward.”

The Scottsdale Unified School District Class of 2020