LIVING UNDER THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
This is part of a series of columns from The Accolade staff about their various experiences during the school closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to submit some of your experiences, please email us at email@example.com.
Nothing has seemed real this past week.
First, the March 13 announcement that moved our classes for the first time in school history to distance learning — Zoom and Google Meet being the primary tools for virtual classroom instruction.
Then, a handful of orders at the local, state and national level that brought the situation from “keeping good hygiene” to “don’t leave your house.”
The closest I’ve ever been to this type of situation was a 2012 West Nile mosquito outbreak while I was still living in Dallas but even then, schools had never been shut down, and I had never heard of a “stay at home” order.
By the time March 19 — my second day of online classes — rolled about, I had no idea what to expect next.
Most of all, I wanted to go back to regular school — a return to normalcy.
Of course, I got the opposite of what I wished for.
I digitally meandered through the day — from one Google Meet to the next — until making it to fifth period, in which principal Allen Whitten was scheduled to meet with The Accolade staff upon accepting our invitation to speak to us about what’s been happening with our campus lately.
During the virtual “press conference” on Zoom, I asked Whitten if he had any updates on the status of spring sports at Sunny Hills.
“I have a strong feeling that athletics will be canceled for the remainder of the school year,” Whitten said.
After that statement, I should’ve known to be ready for an official district announcement to come at any time. Of course, I was not.
After my distance learning school day ended, I had an appointment at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County to get a follow-up x-ray for my mild pectus excavatum, a chest deformity that results in a sunken chest and rib flare.
After hearing all of the news about hospitals cracking down on hygiene and taking precautions against the coronavirus pandemic, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I got there.
But in my case, I didn’t have to get to the hospital before my first big shock arrived.
It came in the form of a screenshot — a screenshot of a message from superintendent Scott Scambray stating that students in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District wouldn’t be continuing distance learning through May 1.
My first thought?
I will not survive another six weeks of this.
My second thought?
Oh my gosh, what about spring sports?
Over the past week and a half, I’ve been closely following any news on Twitter regarding the coronavirus and its effect on athletics, so I rushed to find any bit that Scambray left about sports.
Near the bottom, I found it.
“Athletics … are canceled/postponed until further evaluation on May 1,” Scambray wrote.
I quickly saved the screenshot and reposted it to the @AccoladeSports Twitter account.
Within two hours, the tweet racked up over 2,000 impressions and collected retweets from Dan Albano and Steve Fryer of the Orange County Register, OC Sports Zone and Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times.
My mind still trying to embrace the fact that I would be stuck in online school for another month, I made the realization that I needed to write a story on this, but all I had on me was my smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
This was all unfolding as I was arriving at the hospital as I had my next obstacle — getting past the coronavirus prescreening and finding the radiology department.
I had heard on the news that some places were giving questionnaires and taking the temperature of people to prevent anyone with COVID-19 from coming into places but never saw it firsthand.
A hospital employee asked me a few questions like, “Have you been in contact with someone who has coronavirus?” and “Have you traveled outside of the U.S. in the past 14 days?” before giving me a hard-to-find souvenir — a mask to wear.
Once I passed the coronavirus prescreening, I was allowed to go to the radiology department and get my x-ray done.
But first — my interview. I called athletics director Jon Caffrey and grabbed a pen with which I could write quotes on the back of some of my mom’s work papers.
During the six-minute call, Caffrey offered a new perspective on the situation. Spring sports hadn’t been formally canceled, but they were essentially over because of CIF-Southern Section rules on the final date for regular-season games.
After the call, my x-ray was done, and I left the hospital. I spent the next two hours helping my mom drop off food to family members while also reaching out to coaches and athletes for quotes.
Just before I got back home, however, I received a Twitter message from OC Sport Zone’s Twitter account asking me to send an email to the online website so it could get a few statements from me.
I thought the Sport Zone only wanted a full PDF of Scambray’s news release and maybe a reaction quote to the news, so I sent it an email with the PDF and asked what type of questions the writer wanted.
Tim Burt, the sports editor and owner of OC Sports Zone, responded to me and asked if I had time for a phone call interview, which I agreed to.
Going into the interview, I still thought Burt only wanted a few quotes but as it progressed, I noticed that the questions tended to be a bit more personal to me, not the “Fullerton schools closing” story that I thought my quotes would be used for.
Nevertheless, I kept answering questions until he asked if I had any pictures of me working at the end of the interview. I finally connected the dots and realized that Burt had been interviewing me for my own feature profile.
It hit me all at once. I, the subject of a feature profile? That didn’t seem right.
Burt explained to me why I was the subject of the story. He had been looking for a unique perspective, and me, a student who was affected as an athlete (I’m on the boys tennis team, a spring sport) and journalist fit what he wanted.
At that point, I still hadn’t processed the fact that my junior year tennis season was over. I still don’t think I’ve fully accepted it and am still waiting to suit up for my next match, which probably won’t be for another year.
Being interviewed was an interesting and unique experience, but once it finished, I had to get to work on my own story.
Almost all of my interviews were finished — I had plenty of information to break down from Caffrey — emotional quotes from senior spring sports athletes, but no coaches had responded to me.
Even without the coach quotes, I put myself to sifting through my interview notes and carefully wording the story to make sure everything was accurate.
As the day turned from the 19th to the 20th, everything became more real. This is the world I live in — I attend class online, I have to be pretested for coronavirus just to enter a hospital and I have been selected for the subject of a sports feature profile.
I can hardly wait to see what living under the coronavirus crisis has in store for me during spring break.
You can read Burt’s feature profile on Ngo here.