As schools around Idaho try to find ways to open in the next couple of months, Challis 2020 graduates reflected on their last semester and how it affected their plans post-graduation.
Originally planning to study health care at Idaho State University, Challis High School graduate Hannah Corrigan instead decided to study aviation, due in part to the statewide coronavirus lockdown.
“I’ve always been interested in it,” Corrigan said of flying. “When I was a little girl I looked up at the planes flying over our house and I thought they looked so cool.”
Corrigan said the straw that broke the camel’s back and made her decide to study flying was the spring lockdown in Idaho. Students across the state switched to remote learning from home and had to forgo spring sports. She intended to be on the ISU track and field team, but not being able to compete last semester, combined with being stuck at home, made her rethink where to put her time and energy.
Not participating in track and field made the idea of going to college less appealing, and she realized her time would be better spent following her passion. She’s not yet attending a flight school, but is taking flying lessons.
“I lost my gumption for it, I guess,” Corrigan said of a traditional college plan.
Ang Sudgen, the guidance counselor at CHS, said college isn’t for everyone.
Because of the coronavirus, students everywhere are rethinking their plans, she said.
“Things change in the summer,” Sudgen said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of kids end up taking a gap year and getting a job.”
Sudgen said several Challis 2020 graduates plan to continue their education, mostly in Idaho but a couple plan to attend Utah State University or Snow College, also in Utah.
One Challis graduate whose plans weren’t interrupted by the pandemic was Lane Strand, who signed a letter of intent to Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa before the pandemic. His plans “didn’t really change all that much.”
However, Strand said it was a big disappointment that he didn’t get to play golf his senior year. He had intentions of bringing home a state trophy, but he doesn’t dwell on it. Looking to the future, Strand said he is focusing on when he starts his college career.
Part of Strand’s good fortune is that his college of choice is located within Idaho. Sudgen said she isn’t sure if the teens planning to attend out-of-state colleges might face new challenges because every university has responded differently to the virus. ISU, for example, will return to full campus operations in August while USU will open for a time this fall before switching to remote-only classes on Nov. 20.
Tessa Gregory, the 2020 Challis valedictorian who will attend USU, said she isn’t concerned about the altered schedule. It will allow students to see their families at Thanksgiving, she said, without risking bringing the coronavirus back to campus with them.
Gregory said USU officials are still communicating with students about how in-person learning will take place. Having to switch to remote education partway through the semester doesn’t phase her, Gregory said, because she got used to that style of learning last semester.
“It was interesting, learning that way,” she said. “I liked that it gave me a lot of free time that I used to get a job.”
According to Mackay High School Principal Stephanie Green, the Mackay graduates who plan to attend college are preparing for whatever rules their individual schools impose.
Emily Frandsen, public information specialist for ISU, said it is too early to tell if students will be coming en masse to campus next month. In a statement she said the university hopes to have similar enrollment numbers to last fall, but she has no expectations.
Director of Communications at the University of Idaho Jodi Walker said enrollment is a couple of percentage points behind where it was last year, but she is optimistic. She said U of I administrators stayed in regular contact with students and were able to create a reopening plan that most students support.
U of I students will be allowed back on campus this fall, Walker said, but they will be tested for the coronavirus when they return and will be required to wear face coverings and physically distance on campus.