The end of the year quickly approaches after one of the most tumultuous years in Miami Palmetto Senior High School history.
MPSH started the year welcoming the freshmen Class of 2023. The new members of Palmetto held Student Council elections and were introduced to the world of high school — a world very different from middle school.
At the same time, the Palmetto community took time to celebrate the Class of 2020, entering their senior year. Red shirts and decorated crowns flooded the halls, letting everyone know who the Class of 2020 was and their excitement for the new year.
This year’s twists and turns started with Hurricane Dorian, a large and devastating Category 5 storm. Miami-Dade County schools received a few days off, and Florida braced for impact. After several days of a direct impact scare, Dorian veered off course and left Dade County relieved. However, with its direct and deadly impact on the Bahamas, Panthers organized service drives and community gatherings to help out.
Homecoming 2020 came next; it had a video game theme that delighted many students. The Arcadia Homecoming accompanied a competitive 8-Bit Prowl between the classes that left the seniors victorious.
Another momentous occasion came for the seniors, as many of them completed some or all of their college applications around the time of Homecoming. Many applied to — and later won acceptance to — highly selective universities throughout the state, the country and even internationally.
In another unusual turn for Palmetto, the beloved “Mr. Panther” event hosted by Palmetto’s Television Production occurred in December instead of the traditional February. Palmetto students flooded the auditorium for this highly anticipated event to watch some of Palmetto’s male students demonstrate their talents and abilities on stage.
The change in event timeline came because of the exciting construction schedule. In February, Palmetto’s auditorium would be under construction.
Speaking of construction, Palmetto students and faculty alike packed up two of the oldest buildings on campus and prepared for the move that would occur over winter break. Construction started during the 2018-2019 school year, but the first stage officially finished while Panthers enjoyed their holiday break. The move was bittersweet: Panthers were so excited to move into the beautiful, brand new three-story building but sad to leave the two buildings that housed Palmetto students and teachers since its founding in 1958.
After returning from winter break and entering a new chapter of Palmetto history in the new building, workers got hard at work on phase two of the new campus, which includes a modern library.
The second semester also began after returning from winter break. At this point, all seniors applying to college had submitted their applications, and many already knew where they would go in the fall as Early Decision and Early Action schools released their results. The focus for the school turned to preparing for academic exams and planning end-of-year celebrations like Grad Bash, Prom and Graduation.
At the same time, troublesome news came from across the world. A new virus, entitled COVID-19 (a coronavirus disease that started in 2019) was identified in China as a dangerous respiratory virus that led to the deaths and infections of many Chinese citizens in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei Province.
When news of the virus hit in late January and early February, many disregarded it as a distant threat, a faraway virus barely worse than the flu. More and more, however, the virus came up in conversation as it spread to increasing numbers of nations across the world and began to affect many people.
News of the first major United States infection came from Washington state. The first COVID-19-related death occurred on Feb. 29 in Washington, according to Kiro7. From there, rapid preparations were made in the United States and Palmetto students began to tune into the probability that school would be cancelled at some point.
On Mar. 12 and 13, Palmetto students went to school for the last two days of the year. At the time, they did not know of the wide cancellations that would occur. When a halt of in-person education was announced on Mar. 13, students were under the impression that they would return to school after spring break. However, every few weeks another cancellation was announced, until the final one came that stated Palmetto students and the rest of Dade County students would not return to school for the rest of the year.
This unexpected and devastating announcement stripped away many end-of-year traditions from seniors (Grad Bash, Prom and Graduation, to name a few). It also changed the way students interacted with their teachers, received grades and spent their days.
This unexpected halt to the end of the year will allow students returning next year to truly understand and appreciate the benefits of school and socialization. The Palmetto community also wishes the best to the seniors who will enter college next year. The Class of 2020 truly influenced Palmetto for the better.
For better and for worse, the 2019-2020 school year will come to a close on June 3. Palmetto students had an excellent year and will hopefully return in the fall to a safe environment with new buildings, ready to learn and have fun.