COVID-19 leads to school year as never before


Photo by Audrey Strembicki

This story was originally published in the first edition of The Lion’s Tale (October 6, 2020).

By March 13, the future of the 2019-2020 school year had, like many other facets of daily life, been thrown into uncertainty by a new strand of the coronavirus, which had been declared a pandemic two days earlier by the WHO. It was on this Friday that the Florida Department of Education announced that all school districts would stay closed for an additional week beyond the planned spring break. The closure of physical learning centers was soon extended to April 15 and then May 1.  By this time, students had begun remote learning but it seemed like the world had come to a standstill. 

While it was clear that COVID-19 was spreading through the community, questions remained over the severity of the disease and the length of the sudden disruption it caused. With the Trump administration proposing a reopening of the economy as soon as Easter, discussions of resuming in person instruction and make up days persisted. But onOn April 18, as the virus showed no signs of abating in the near future, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that schools would remain closed for the duration of the school year.

Because of these extraordinary circumstances, Oviedo High School (OHS) experienced a fourth quarter unlike any other. After the extended spring break, Administration quickly pivoted and moved all learning to an online format.  Some teachers decided to hold live lessons through platforms like Webex and Zoom, while others created new assignments or altered previously planned projects. Students took their AP exams, which had been modified from 4 hours to 1 hour,  from home and participated in virtual events, ceremonies, including graduation, and other end of year celebrations all online – no friends, no hugs, no high fives – just waves across the computer screens.

Now, over five months later, students and teachers have returned to Oviedo High School. To be sure, things look quite different from when we departed last spring. Many face to face classes are smaller as students learn at home through Seminole Connect and Seminole County Virtual School. Face shields and masks, and, when possible, social distancing, have become the norm on campus. Perhaps the biggest changes have been to the structure of the day itself. Once again, the Administration worked quickly and efficiently to move OHS to a block schedule for the year and add a third lunch (and new outside seating along with it) all in an effort to encourage social distancing and promote the health and safety of both our teachers and our students.

At the Lion’s Tale, we’re committed to documenting how students, teachers, coaches and administrators are adapting to this unprecedented new school year. In this first edition, we’ll examine how teachers are handling the challenge of teaching classes split between in-person and virtual settings. We’ll look at how the pandemic is affecting athletes on the field and in their recruitment processes. Our staff will also report on how COVID-19 has altered students’ extracurricular activities, like Marching Band.

Thanks to the efforts of students, teachers and administration, this year is off to a good start, both in terms of academics and prevention of virus spread. According to the Seminole County Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard, OHS has had only one positive case of the coronavirus at the time of printing, which is the second lowest number of the county’s nine high schools. That being said, we must continue to be conscientious about mask wearing, social distancing and sanitation measures. Multiple Central Florida schools have had to shut down for days or weeks after testing confirmed new virus cases within the schools. 

While we’re confident and hopeful that this pattern positive trend will continue, in the event of a campus closure,  the Lion’s Tale will remain dedicated to covering the stories that matter the most to the best of our ability.