All students, not just the class of 2020, have missed out on important rites of passage at school due to the pandemic. (Jennifer Bardsley)

All students, not just the class of 2020, have missed out on important rites of passage at school due to the pandemic. (Jennifer Bardsley)

With summer break, we say RIP to the 2019-2020 school year

High school seniors aren’t the only students who missed out on rites of passage because of COVID-19.

School is officially out for my kids, although neither of them has set foot on campus since mid-March. Still, technically summer vacation is upon us, and that should make us glad.

These past few weeks we’ve seen pictures of Class of 2020 car parades and teenage girls dressed up in prom dresses standing alone in their back yard. Everyone feels empathy for the 12th graders who missed out on the fun parts of senior year. But let’s not forget the other kids in our schools who missed big events, too.

For my daughter, that meant losing the chance to go to fifth-grade camp, which she’d been looking forward to since kindergarten. Fifth-graders at her school also have Grandfriend’s Day, where the librarian facilitates a letter-writing campaign between children and their grandparents all year, culminating in a special celebration in May. Also gone, was the trip to Wild Waves with her safety patrol friends and a classroom field trip to the fish hatchery. Her Girl Scout’s bridging ceremony was a lonely photo opt in our front yard.

“What really makes me sad,” my daughter told me, “is not being able to say goodbye to my little buddy.” The special relationship between fifth-graders and second-graders that the teachers fostered all year, could not culminate with a party.

This was the year my son was to receive his first high school yearbook and pass it around to his friends with a marker. Surely someone would have written something rude or insulting, which would have made my son laugh, and show it to me as soon as he got home. Now he’s supposed to pick his yearbook up in the middle of August. We are to stay tuned for “safety instructions for yearbook distribution” coming soon.

My son is 15 years old now and signed up for online driver’s ed. We are hoping to teach him how to drive this summer. But we have waited to get his learner’s permit, because the DOL has been closed for appointments until June 22. There is a huge backup for teenagers waiting to take skills tests and get instruction permits.

Now, my kids are stuck in this strange limbo, reminiscent of a Zoom waiting room where the screen says: “Please wait for the host to start this meeting,” and we wonder if our link works. Will school actually resume in-person this fall? What happens if one of their classmates becomes ill? Will school close again?

So, yes, let’s feel sorry for the graduating Class of 2020 who missed out on prom and walking across a crowded stage to receive their diplomas. But don’t give them all your sympathy, because other grades have suffered, too.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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