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Have you been hit by the senioritis virus?

An outbreak of viral slack-off was first recognized in Western New York high schools in late winter and has since been identified all over the country.

Although initially attributed to the LAZY virus based on positive findings in homework and test grade samples using a virus-specific AbC-capture enzyme-linked motivation assay, the cause of the outbreak may in fact be a senioritis virus, based on the identification of the virus in seniors this time of year.

The most common method of transmission is airborne, and it is very contagious. Most teens lack immunity. Symptoms may include lower test grades, fewer hours devoted to studying and a decrease in attendance as well as overall care and concern for schoolwork.

The origins of this virus are unclear.

According to Andrew Bowen, vice principal of Williamsville North High School, senioritis is "an excuse seniors use to not engage themselves in their academics."

In fact, most teachers seemed to agree with Bowen that as the weather becomes warmer, students become distracted. They tend to believe the school year is over even though there are still months to go.

Senioritis also may originate in tradition.

"It's an inherent tradition, an expected ritual," says Joseph Buckle, the orchestra conductor at Williamsville North. "By springtime, seniors assume they have senioritis."

Is this epidemic really an excuse or a tradition, or is there more?

Seniors at Williamsville North and even a few teachers have quite different ideas concerning the roots of this virus.

One senior said, "As time goes on, you get sick of the daily routine ... You want to break the cycle, so you slowly push the boundaries of how [much] you can get away with."

Perhaps there is some truth to this. High school students are expected to get good grades, play an after-school sport, volunteer in the community, play an instrument and have 10,000 other extracurricular activities. Sleep? Maybe six to seven hours on a good night. No human being has enough steam to keep chugging along on such a high-stress schedule.

Senioritis is "thinking about taking mental health days once a week," says student Alisha S.

There has to be a compromise.

"Senioritis is not a character flaw," says social studies teacher Michele Lukas. "It's a natural, normal attitude in a society when so much is expected of you. We need to be firm but understanding."

Senioritis, she continues, is, "the fatigue and lack of motivation that students feel after 13 long years of hard work."

She admits that she had senioritis when she was in high school.

"I've got it. too. We've all got it," says English teacher Joseph Finucane. Even teachers would rather be outside when the weather gets warm than in class solving math problems or correcting papers.

By March, seniors have received their class rank and sent in their college applications. Guidance departments have sent midyear grades, and some seniors even know where they're going to college.

"As soon as I got accepted to college, it was full-force senioritis," admits Sam Z.

As senior Jessica A. put it: "About midyear, you get a nagging feeling that whatever's on TV is more worthwhile than studying."

Furthermore, senioritis doesn't just hit average or below-average students.

"Honors kids are used to putting in a lot of effort, so the dropout is higher," explains Harmann S.

Kids taking AP classes are just as tired of all the studying, so they finally see this time as a break.

Is now really the time for a break though?

The negative effects of senioritis can be devastating. Colleges do actually reserve the right to rescind admission if they see a student's grades slipping.

Stephen Bresee, a biology teacher, says, "You've worked so hard all year, it's a shame to let it all slip away." If students clamp down and get a good grade on the exam, he continues, then they will be happy.

Physics teacher Kevin Poplawski urges his students: "Don't try something without giving it your all or 100 percent."

Lukas agrees. "If you've worked this hard for this many years, you want to finish and not have regrets when you look back," she says.

Giving up now means giving up on AP exams (plus the $80 it costs to register), possible college credit and final exams. Slacking off now does not help prepare for college.

Senioritis is, according to Finucane, "No mas, I've had enough. Please release me."

Well, unfortunately, it's only April, and seniors aren't released until June. Until then, the best way to avoid the fastest spreading epidemic is to settle down and focus for the last stretch of high school because it really is almost over.

Naomi Soman is a senior at Williamsville North High School and has managed to avoid catching the senioritis bug.