Township Rises to the Occasion

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the cause of cancellation of schools, athletics, and pretty much any other activity. Jefferson Township has been no exception to this rule. However, the town remained resilient and has made a continued effort of this town to make sure things and people do not go unnoticed. From honoring seniors, to celebrating five-year-olds’ birthdays, people, and organizations in Jefferson have shown their strength and compassion.

A different way of learning

It comes as no surprise that the pandemic was difficult for both the students and teachers when it came to maintaining patience and the willpower and focus to continue to work. After trial and error, the Jefferson schools made some adjustments when heading into the last month of the school year.

First off, for high school students all finals were cancelled due to the pandemic. Also, the board decided to allow students to have “No Tech Friday,” nearly dismissing them from classes on Fridays. The town also decided to allow students to close their laptops for the year and end their school year on June 19, shortening the final date from the original June 23. This was done mainly due to the cancellation of finals, which would have taken place over that last week. The school scheduled return dates for laptops as well as locker cleanups the week after school was over. The students returned their laptops and gathered their belongings at scheduled times in order to keep students apart from one another.

Students continued on the same schedule as the original coronavirus set up. They were given their assignments at roughly 7:35 a.m. and had the day to complete their assignments for each class. Classes were recommended to assign 30 minutes’ worth of work daily. However, come June, the board also added specific times throughout the day which teachers were allowed to Zoom or Google Meet with their class. This was done to avoid controversy of schedule due to students having multiple overlapping meetings with teachers and other classes.

Celebrating Athletes Off the Field

High school spring sports had been cancelled for quite some time. However, many coaches and teams were creative in finding possible ways to help athletes get their year back.

For the seniors, it was much more difficult to establish any way to save their last season for all of high school. Coaches honored their seniors in special ways based on the program.

“We received banners and t-shirts as a replacement for an end of the year banquet which would have been coming soon,” senior lacrosse captain Nate Thomson said about their attempts to honor seniors. “We were motivated to continue to help the underclassmen for their future and leave our mark that way.”

Other programs have also distributed t-shirts and banners as well as making videos for their teams with fellow athletes and coaches thanking the senior class and their efforts the past four years.

“It got me emotional to see how much we impacted the younger guys over the years,” senior baseball player Justin Cece said about the team’s video thanking the seniors. “I’m going to miss playing with them and wearing Jefferson across my chest.”

While some coaches have been doing different things for the seniors, the Jefferson athletic director Bill Koch has been doing his own thing to honor the class of 2020.

First, he released a profile of the athletes on the Athletics Department’s Twitter and Instagram. In doing so, Koch recognized all of the senior awards and their future endeavors. Koch also made sure that the senior awards banquet would go on. While the planned live broadcast was not able to work, Koch uploaded the awards banquet for all to see on the Twitter page, which allowed the seniors to get some sense of closure from their coaches and fellow athletes.

One sport that didn’t give up on the season was baseball. While most sports have accepted the spring seasons cancellation, baseball came up with a plan to get some closure for athletes starting July 7. The idea, which started on Facebook from a coach, was to group teams into a division and play three games, which would decide the division’s winner. After all division winners were decided, the tournament would begin as a north vs. south March madness type of setup, allowing there to be one team crowned as State Champion.

The Jefferson Falcons were in this tournament, which took place during the duration of June, giving the baseball players their final chance at closure for the 2020 season.

The final athletic decision that was made for high school sports during the pandemic has been the addition of a bridge year. This rule is giving the class of 2021 athletes the ability to attend their community college, or for Jefferson, County College of Morris and play another year of spring high school sports after graduation. This will allow the student-athletes to play their four years of high school sports, while getting a jump start on their college education and possibly allowing them to get recruited to a school more fit for themselves.

“It’s just a great opportunity for the seniors to get out there one more time and play for the town. Some of these guys have been looking forward to their senior year since they were eight years old, so at least they’ll get something out of this year,” said Jefferson’s head baseball coach Jason Kalish.

Honoring the Class of 2020

The class of 2020 lost the most out of its spring semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prom, birthdays, fun with friends, and even milestones such as graduation were all lost in the process. The town of Jefferson found ways to honor seniors, as well as ways to pull off the events which were postponed.

Most seniors’ first sadness when they discovered the cancellation of the school year was the cancellation of prom. Many girls had already gotten their dresses and began to plan for the exciting week of prom. This was undoubtedly the most difficult of all senior memories to restore due to the pandemic. Many venues are unsure of when they will be opening and even further, when they will open at full capacity, making it difficult for the senior class presidents, Olivia Oberman and Kaylin Kerr, to find a date for a rescheduled prom.

Since the school year ended on June 19, the prom funds had to be moved to another area so students could still use the money. That is why the Project Graduation group took on the prom funds in order to put it aside for a later date. The class advisors and presidents have looked into Thanksgiving or winter break for a possible makeup prom; however, dates are still not confirmed.

Although prom’s postponement saddened the class of 2020, the seniors had many different things organized to help make their senior year still feel special.

First the Facebook organization of an Adopt a Senior page took full swing. Parents were able to sign their child up and then other parents in the town would choose to adopt seniors which they knew or didn’t know and get them gifts to brighten their moods. This campaign allowed seniors to receive gifts ultimately replacing the graduation gifts, but also just as a way to spread kindness in the community.

Many seniors also participated in door decorations. While most class of 2020 graduates have a sign up in front of their house, some went above and beyond by decorating their front door with mementoes of their accomplishments, their Jefferson experiences, and their future plans. This trend is extremely noticeable, especially when going through an area such as The Peaks or Waters Edge.

Another way seniors were celebrated was through a deed done by an anonymous town citizen. This person set up flags outside the town library, one for each senior. The flags were in alphabetical order next to the person with whom they would walk at graduation. The flags also included students who go to private schools from Jefferson, with their names and schools on the flag. Behind the scene was a sign which read, “Class of 2020, Senior Skip Day Champions.” This sense of remembrance as well as humor was a unique and memorable way to honor the senior class of 2020.

Cars gather at the Warwick Drive-In to watch film of the class of 2020 graduating. (Photo by Christopher Bean)

Finally, the class of 2020 was still able to have a graduation, which was arguably the most memorable one in years. Students went to the high school at assigned times throughout May to be recorded while walking across the stage as they “graduated.” Later, these recordings were put into a long video which included speeches from students and advisors and was displayed at the Warwick Drive-In Theater on June 10. The video also included special messages from celebrities such as Randy Jackson and James Murray advising the class of 2020 that they will be stronger than the rest and to continue to move forward. After a long night up in Warwick, NY, it was clear that the graduation for the class of 2020 was one that will never be forgotten.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has taken the world by storm, the town of Jefferson Township has done better than most in maintaining a semi-normal life while also meeting state guidelines and restrictions. The way the town has treated students, teachers, athletes, and the class of 2020 has made many residents of J-Town honored to be a Falcon.

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