Acknowledging COVID’s Continued Cadence

The world suffered many tragedies in 2020, from the first documented case of the now-infamous Coronavirus to the dissolution of almost all schools across the nation. For many, this marked the end of both academic and social success. As one year passes for the survivors of this pandemic, Immanuel Lutheran Christian Academy looks back to see where certain actions will take them in the future. 

“I knew I would never see my friends again,” freshman David Pridgen said regarding his past experience. 

He came to Immanuel after the closing of Ernest Childers Middle School in early 2020. After establishing an online basis for instruction, David arrived at Immanuel for its in-class offerings. 

“I only had Zooms with my drama and choir teacher, and everyone else just sent the work for us to do online,” Pridgen said. 

As the pandemic caused many to behave in new and somewhat strange ways, Pridgen recalls a particularly unusual experience.

“One of my teachers had our online class from her hot tub, and would sit there the entire zoom session,” Pridgen said.

Not all was lost for the freshman, however, as the unforeseen circumstances led to unlikely success. Despite the less than lofty expectations, Pridgen was able to strive in the online learning environment. 

“It made working so much more helpful. I could get everything done in just a couple hours,” Pridgen said.

Another freshman, Liam Eden, did not share Pridgen’s appreciation for the new learning atmosphere. He is also new to Immanuel, recently leaving Bixby, which still calls for online classes. 

“I have a low attention span and I get easily distracted, which was not helped by going all online. My grades plummeted, and that’s when I first thought about coming here,” Eden said.

The immediate differences were obvious to Eden. On the one hand, Bixby offered familiarity and the ability to continue seeing friends that had been made in middle school. On the other hand, he knew that to go to Immanuel would mean a chance at new scholarly success: culminating in new interactions and experiences. 

The move also highlighted a way to escape the perilous nature of the pandemic: of which Eden lost more than in-person classes.

“My Great-grandma was hospitalized and we couldn’t see her, and I also broke my back during the pandemic. I was also not allowed visitors, which left me feeling alone. The school situation did not help with that,” Eden said.  

Moving schools did not change the spread of the virus, and Eden reflected on what has been missing for over a year.

“I miss having a sense of ‘freedom’ inside school. The masks and mandates don’t help that. I also miss not worrying about a sickness the entire time I’m at school,” Eden said. 

He hopes that people will understand how quickly a pandemic can occur and that people should be “all in this together.”

As for the older Immanuel students, not all is as delightfully nostalgic as it once was. Ramsey Al-Rawi noticed how, with the encroaching spread of the virus in early 2020, the school seemingly lost a part of itself. Now, with the absence of what “this part” maybe, he feels as though his senior year may not have lived up to his expectations.

“ILCA just got so small, with students leaving and the year feeling so much longer than normal. Also, the camaraderie is lower. People don’t want to be all together,” Al-Rawi said.

Ramsey had to make difficult choices last year, including the decisions that lead to better grades in an online setting.

“It was all up to me to do assignments and stay on top of everything. I hated not being able to go anywhere and being stuck at home all day,” Al-Rawi said. 

He did accomplish his aspirations though, keeping his grades afloat and making his way past junior year. It was a great achievement for Al-Rawi, who calls all students to take charge in their academic careers.

“We need to stay diligent and work together. Something like this can happen suddenly, and if people were less selfish we could get over this virus,” Al-Rawi said. 

It is true that students remain adherent to the new health and safety standards instituted by ILCA faculty, and none would be more pleased by their success than headmaster Stephen Zehnder.

“It was stressful. When the pandemic started, the teachers had to rush to make a plan in one week, and the students had to learn a whole new way of learning,” Zehnder said.

He remarks how, although he is blessed to be able to return to in-person schooling, he misses the opportunity to include the neighboring communities in certain activities.

“The musical was canceled, we delayed graduation, and people were isolated from their social interests,” Zehnder said. 

In June of last year, ILCA allowed students the opportunity to finish certain courses in person, in order to accommodate those who had difficulties learning online.

“Many families did not have access to computers or the internet during that time, and we wanted to make sure that everyone graduated,” Zehnder said.

With the added efforts of sanitation in the remaining school year, Immanuel hopes to graduate in person with full attendance. As the veil of COVID is lifted in the coming years, Immanuel will remember these times of new learning experiences.