The Class of 2021: Planning Memorable Events During a Pandemic
Katie Patrick ‘21 and Chumani Chamberlain ‘21
The Class of 2021 has undoubtedly experienced a Senior year far from expected. From months of hybrid learning to reimagined athletic seasons, the Senior class has shown a high level of adaptability in a time of uncertainty. As second semester seniors, the class has shifted their attention on key end-of-the-year events such as Graduation, Prom, Senior Chapel, and Prize Day. In hope that these events will happen as they have watched classes above them experience them, the administration is currently working to make these events just as special and COVID friendly. However, the everchanging pandemic has led to the administration reimagining these significant events.
In a survey sent to the entire Senior class, the grade reflected on the plans for the upcoming events. Out of 34 responses 94.1% (32) seniors stated they plan to attend end-of-year Senior events such as Prom, Graduation, Senior Chapel, and Baccalaureate, while 5.9% (2) seniors stated that they would “maybe” attend these events.
In an interview with Upper School Director Mr. Mallett, he stated how the three hardest aspects of planning these year end events include the “use of outdoor spaces, separation, and a limit on the attendees.” He also added how a Senior parent group has researched other schools and how they have carried out important ceremonies effectively. Further, Mr. Mallett noted how he has worked alongside Erin Hartman the commencement coordinator to navigate the challenges of planning such important events during a pandemic.
Along with the survey, some seniors decided to elaborate on their responses. Adrienne Lai is “definitely excited that we are having a graduation so that we can all at least come back together one more time.” She also noted that since seniors will not have Shrine Mont “some sort of bonding thing would be fun” in an effort to bring class unity before graduation.
Adding onto the topic of graduation, Elinor West expresses how she is “a bit upset that my grandmother might not be able to attend, but hopefully with the four person plan in the works she will be able to come.” In response to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam allowing 1,000 people at outdoor events, the Graduation coordinators have explored plans to allow for 1,000 people to attend Graduation which would allow for each student in the Senior class to bring four people instead of two to Graduation. However, this plan is not final. Elinor also talks about her thoughts on the uncertain prom plan, stating how “as long as we have a prom I'm happy and hope we are able to do it in a safe way.”
Elinor says it perfectly as all of the seniors have accepted that their end of the year events will be different, but they are content with any kind of altered version. Overall, it is evident that all of the seniors are looking forward to the homestretch of their high school experience.
This unusual Senior year for the class of 2021 has also taken away Senior privileges where seniors are allowed to eat lunch off campus with their peers. With the elimination of this privilege Mr. Mallett stated how there is a possibility for seniors to have a privilege of “having food delivered, like Uber Eats or postmates for the seniors in April, that should be a privilege because none of the other grades can order food here.”
In regards to Senior Prom the plans are still in the works however in a recent communication to Seniors and their families Mr. Mallett layed out the goals for Prom and potential dates that would not interfere with academic and co-cirrcular events. “Our goal remains clear: to safely and responsibly hold a Prom without significantly reducing participation in co-curricular opportunities and without jeopardizing attendance at Commencement” he stated in the March 12th email. Amanda Gaffney reflected on the initial plans the school has for Prom: “I think the school is doing its best trying to accommodate what we were able to do during the pandemic. Obviously I would like for Prom to be in April but that all depends on after Spring Break...but I think right now they are doing their best.”
Another opportunity the seniors have enjoyed since the week of March 1st is having all seniors on campus every day of the week. Since the Senior class has experienced limited opportunities to be all together at once since the start of the school year Mr. Mallett emphasized how “We also want to make sure we are prioritizing seniors” in regards to bringing entire grades back on campus.
Adrienne Lai says it’s “very helpful” to have the entire Senior class on campus. She continued by stating how since the whole grade has been able to be together every day she feels a bit more “normalcy” to her everyday routine.
Kemal Ozdemirli also says that “it is amazing being all back together because you're learning in a classroom full of people and can have those side conversations that gives learning a whole different vibe that I really missed the past year.”
Amanda Gaffney also expressed her enjoyment for in person learning by stating how she thinks “it's great. I personally love coming to school. I learn better here so it's much better than sitting behind Zoom for six hours a day. And it's great to be able to see everybody and have lunch with everyone, it's awesome!”
To the Administration, the Class of 2021 Parent Team, and Faculty,
This school year has challenged all of us in a multitude of ways, and although our Senior year has been far from we have imagined we are so incredibly grateful for all the work you have done to make this Senior Year special. From the Cornhole Tournament, to the outdoor Senior Chapel, the special lunch to celebrate 100 days until Graduation, and so much more! Thank you for continuing to care for us and support us during this tremendous time.