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Coronavirus cuts senior year short for Arkansas students

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced students would not return to the classroom this school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Senior pranks, the final baseball game, and senior skip day — those are just a few of the things the class of 2020 will miss out.

On Monday, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced students would not return to the classroom this school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, graduating seniors are also left wondering: "Will I get to walk the stage?"

"We kind of anticipated that we would be out of school for the rest of the year, but as soon as it kind of hit us and we learned about it, that's when the final blow struck," Chris Smith, a senior at Episcopal Collegiate School said of the governor's announcement.

Smith is among thousands of Arkansas students who will finish the school year — and their high school careers — online.

Emily Greenwell is senior class president at Benton High School. She said her classmates are processing the situation in different ways.

"There's a lot of different types of people right now," she said. "I've got people who are just really concerned about prom and graduation and what are we going to do about that."

She said some students have felt anger and sadness. But as they adjust to online coursework, Greenwell believes they are also coming to terms with the circumstances.

"We're starting to accept this is happening," she said. "I think a lot of people are starting to see that this is serious. We're more sad than angry about it at this point, and we want to see an end to [the pandemic]."

Both Greenwell and Smith agree this interruption to the year they planned has come with a number of valuable lessons.

"I guess a positive about it is starting to appreciate your friends even more, the time you have left before you go to college and appreciate what school can give to you in a physical setting rather than online," Smith said.

"Just because today is extra hard, we still have to move on," Greenwell said. "There's more after high school. It's unfortunate that we have to miss out on a lot of the highlights for most people, but this is something we definitely won't forget."

Plans for graduation ceremonies will be left up to each individual school district. State Education Commissioner Johnny Key said districts need to follow CDC guidelines regarding large group gatherings.

For now, most districts are holding off on making definitive commencement plans.

A message from Benton Superintendent Dr. Mike Skelton:

Posted by Benton Public Schools on Tuesday, April 7, 2020

"I feel for the class of 2020," Dr. Mike Skelton, Benton Public School superintendent, said in a recorded video message. "You seniors have worked so hard to get to this point in your lives. Please know we are all celebrating and proud of you despite the unknown in your lives."

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