Education

Two students on staying home for final days of high school

Lyng Coyne is overloaded with homework, reading, working out and “even learning to cook,” the Shelter Island High School senior said, describing the new normal of life without a school to go to.

Asked how the self-taught cooking classes are going, she paused before answering. “At least I haven’t burned down the kitchen,” she said. “Yet.”

Since school closed in the middle of last month to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Ms. Coyne and her fellow seniors have faced the fact that celebrating a rite of passage, of finishing high school before going out into the world, is on hold or might be cancelled.

She and her classmates on Shelter Island might be home alone individually, but the total number of students studying remotely is staggering. According to the World Economic Forum, schools in over 100 countries are closed, “affecting the education of nearly 1 billion children.”

The prom seems in jeopardy of happening here, and even graduation ceremonies might be curtailed.

It’s difficult, Ms. Coyne said, and more difficult because of what seems an enormous amount of homework from the digital learning program paired with occasional video sessions with her teachers.

“It just seems a lot,” the honors student said, who will attend Providence College in the fall on an honors program at the Rhode Island school.

Part of the work load, she realizes, is more onerous because she’s being a student by herself. “I miss going to school, being in class and outside class with my girlfriends and the guys,” she said.

A stand-out student athlete, she has always filled her schedule as a member of the basketball, volleyball and track teams, as well as acting in the school’s spring musical.

But now she’s home, and not completely happy with it, “although I like the free time,” she said. Studying, communicating with her teachers, she’s also working out with weights, reading — a novel by Sarah Dessin and “The Other Wes Moore” — watching movies and turning herself into a cook.

“I’m making different rice bowls, and different seafood plates,” she said. Her father, Chris Coyne, who harvests and sells oysters, has provided some of the ingredients for what Ms. Coyne said were some of her successful “full-rounded meals. I’m doing O.K.”

Walter Richards, her senior year classmate, is also doing, O.K., he said, even with a schedule that’s filled day and night.

The honor roll student and star varsity basketball player is working for his father’s landscaping business from 8 to 5 during the day and then doing homework at night.

Like Ms. Coyne, Mr. Richards finds the homework assignments a heavy load, and agrees with her that it’s more difficult learning remotely than being in a class with other students and a teacher.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to pick up what the teacher is teaching on a video,” he said.

Losing out on the fourth quarter of his senior year and celebrations with his classmates is a situation that just has to be dealt with, he said. “Sometimes I feel like this sucks, and I miss school, but never to the point of getting angry about it,” he said. “It’s not earth shattering.”

Mr. Richards counts himself lucky to have a job that gets him out of the house, luckier than some classmates who are not taking isolation well.

Speaking about a close friend, he said, “His parents won’t let him out at all, just the yard,” and it’s “getting to him.”

Ms. Coyne gets out and sometimes sees friends — “the one’s not on house arrest by their parents” — keeping social distance for nature walks.

School in the fall will be exciting, she said, with a major in math and minors in biology and business. She’s looking forward to living in Providence, and taking advantage of city life.

“But I’m doing all right now,” she said. “We’re all doing all right.”

This fall, Mr. Richards is off to SUNY Cobleskill in upstate New York to study landscape contracting. It will good to be away, to experience new things, he said, adding, “But I’ll always be here. Shelter Island is my home.”