Playoffs and Prom On Hold, N.H. High School Seniors Navigate Coronavirus Uncertainty

Mar 22, 2020

It was just a week before the opening night of Pinkerton Academy's production of Children of Eden, and the cast was hard at work in the chorus room, running through the entire musical from start to finish for the first time.

Senior Emma Cahoon was Eve, her first lead role ever in the school’s spring musical, and she remembers the exact moment in the rehearsal when things went wrong.

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“Eve has eaten the apple, and she’s getting kicked out of the garden, basically. And Adam has to decide whether he’s going to go with Eve or stay in the garden with Father,” Cahoon said. “And Adam, my dear friend, got through his beautiful song and everything just stopped.”

The theater director interrupted the rehearsal. And then came the moment when Cahoon’s senior year split into two distinct parts: Before and after.

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After months of work, just a week before showtime, Cahoon learned her final high school musical would be postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus. Cahoon looked over at her friend.

“And we just, we just kinda locked eyes, and he hadn’t really realized what was going on yet, and then I watched him figure out what was going on, and it was this moment of like: Well, this sucks.”

This does suck. For everyone. But for seniors in New Hampshire high schools, school being closed is more than just missing time in the classroom: Senior year is a time in their lives where every week feels so important, one milestone after the next. And now, everything they’ve been anticipating for four years is so uncertain.

New Hampshire schools are closed until at least April 3rd, though state education officials have suggested that could stretch even longer. Meanwhile, winter playoff games have been cut short; spring sports, musicals, conferences are postponed until, well, who knows when.

Lots of seniors understand why these cancellations and postponements have to happen. The last thing Cahoon wants is for her 92-year-old great-grandmother to drive up from Connecticut to see the show and get sick.

“Part of me wants someone to be mad at, but that’s not what the situation is,” she said.

Concord High School senior Cadence Solsky has two autoimmune diseases and lives with older family members, so she also gets how important it is to be self-isolating right now.

“It’s hard, because I want to look at this and say, ‘Oh, this is stupid, we shouldn’t be doing this,’ but at the same time, if I’m not careful, then I’m at a much higher risk,” Solsky said.

This comes from a girl who has been hammered lately with bad news. Solksy has been captain of the Concord equestrian team for three years, and this year, her last in high school, the team looked especially promising. Solsky was at the barn when she saw an email come through with the subject line: “sad news.”

She ran up a hill to get better cell phone service, only to find out the entire season was cancelled. Solsky was so upset, she said a mentor suggested maybe she shouldn’t drive home just yet.

And then there are all the things that are still up in the air. Like graduation. Senior Week. Senior Prom.

Cadence has known for years exactly what she would wear to prom. Cinderella was always her favorite story growing up, and she’s had this vision of a look inspired by the princess.

“This is part of why I’m so mad,” she said. “I’ve been saving a baby blue color dress for my senior year. I’ve been waiting to do that, so I’m going to be pretty upset if I can't.”

The little stuff is hard to process too. Aggie Macy, a senior at The Dublin School, flew all the way out to California to compete in the Junior Nationals for cross country skiing, only for it to be cancelled halfway through the tournament. And yet, the thing that’s really bothering her? She misses just being with her classmates. They were all on spring break when the school closure was announced, and since Dublin School is a boarding school, Macy doesn’t know when - or if - she’ll see her classmates again.

“There certainly wasn’t that closure,” she said. “I really haven’t had much time to process, thinking that maybe I won’t actually go back and graduate and see people again, so I’m just kind of banking [on being] able to.”

Many students are looking for the bright spots amid the uncertainty. Mather Kipka plays basketball for ConVal Regional High School. His team was supposed to play Oyster River in the quarter-finals, but the game never happened.

It was rough at first. But he’s had some time to think.

“So, something that’s been kind of comforting for me at least, is that everyone else is doing the exact same thing as me,” Kipka said. “Like, I’m not missing out on anything. My friends aren’t out without me, you know?”

Everybody is missing out on something right now; these seniors seem to get it. It may not be fair, but they understand.

Special thanks to ConVal Regional High School senior Mather Kipka for providing the music (that he wrote while self-isolating at home) for the broadcast version of this story.