The date was March 13th, 2020. News headlines read: “Americans brace for life of new routines as virus spreads,” and “Hospitals on high alert for deadly coronavirus.” Some students felt excited for the so-called “extra two week break.” Others were in a frenzy over unchartered territory caused by the Coronavirus. Either way, no one could imagine the events that would follow. Students packed up their lockers, while making jokes about the new and bizarre situation. No one expected what would come next. Let’s take a look back at life since the pandemic as we reach the one year mark since it began to impact our lives.
As the last in-person month of the school year, March really was a jam packed month at the Hebrew Academy. While the Coronavirus began to spread, students celebrated Purim and Color War alongside their peers. Many also attended national conferences, like AIPAC and YUNMUN. As we spent the first weeks at home, students enjoyed learning to use Zoom, making use of virtual backgrounds and the mute button. Everyone expected that we would be back in school after Pesach break, but every day the reality of that happening seemed more and more grim.
APRIL: April is when the boredom truly hit. Students quickly changed their tune, from “yay no school” to “ugh I wish we were back.” During this month, many took part in viral Tik Tok fads, such as whipped coffee and self cut bangs. Teenagers all over tried to cure their boredom through Netflix, and the show Outer Banks was streamed by at least seventy five percent of the high school. Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’azmaut were both celebrated virtually in April, and for many used to the school program, this was extremely strange.
In regards to Covid itself, April was the month where the CDC announced fever as a common symptom of the virus. Amazon was practically sold out of thermometers within days, hospitals were packed with people sick with Covid19, and doctors were still scrambling to figure out what to do.
In May, many students prepared to take their virtual AP exams. Because so many students used the server at once, some ended up locked out of their tests, needing to retake them on makeup day. Trying to prepare for an AP test with only a few questions was beyond stressful. During this time, many students also began to wonder what finals would look like while virtual; most hoped that we simply would not have any.
May was also a turning point for the virus. During this month, the United States and AstraZeneca formed a vaccine deal, predicting a roll out in October. Unfortunately, the amount of deaths from the Coronavirus supparsed 100,000.
During June, the virtual school year came to an end. With having spent the last few months at home, students were optimistic about the summer and many hoped to even attend sleepaway camp. Many camps unfortunately were unable to open due to safety concerns, but some like Lavi, Seneca, and Mesorah were to open their doors, as they followed strict CDC guidelines.
In June, the amount of Covid cases reached 2 million, but the death rate began to drop. Many were optimistic that the whole virus would be over by the start of the new school year.
In July, scientists concluded that Covid-19 could be airborne. The CDC emphasized that asymptomatic individuals were a big part of the spread, urging everyone to continue following guidelines.
Many students relaxed over the summer: some went to sleepaway camp, while others stayed home with their families. Regardless of what they did, many just enjoyed not having to suffer through virtual classes.
Although many were optimistic about school reopening on time, August brought the news that the High School would remain virtual until mid December. Many were upset, but understood the need to properly prepare the building for safe in-person learning.
Additionally, in August President Trump reached a deal with Moderna for 100 million doses of their vaccine for $1.5 billion. The FDA also approved saliva tests in August.
Classes were in full-swing in September… well as full-swing as they can be while virtual. Students got to know their new teachers, even though they had not met them in-person yet. Many began to count down the days until October 14, when we would finally return to school.
In September, the Trump Administration announced the vaccine distribution plan. Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer began phase 3 of their vaccine trials in September as well. Many began to finally have hope of returning to normal.
OCTOBER: Back to school at last! Students spent the first days back learning the new layout of the building and meeting all the new faculty members. Although wearing masks for eight hours straight took some getting used to, being in-person made a huge difference to most.
In October, President Trump and First Lady Melania both caught Covid-19, and many were worried for both of their healths. People also began to think about the upcoming election and who they wanted as their next president.
NOVEMBER: November was seemingly boring, which felt like a good thing. Many felt comfort in experiencing a “normal” day-to-day life.
The Presidential Election also occurred during November, resulting in the election of President Joe Biden. During this month, the efficacy rates of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were also released, and the two vaccines were on their way to being distributed.
In December, the school began implementing fun activities like allowing students to eat their lunch on the beach. With Chanukah this month, students enjoyed spirit week with fun activities like laser tag (well until we all went into quarantine).
The new year brought more hope in regards to Covid. January is usually the midterm season. However, this year midterms were done virtually due to the high school wide quarantine. Afterwards, students enjoyed a winter break and one week virtual before returning back to in-person classes. The school also finally began construction on the new middle school and high school building after years. This really excited students.
February was yet another “normal” month. In February, Rabbi Guttenberg announced an update to the school Covid guidelines that was much more relaxed. Students were thrilled to finally be able to hang out with their friends safely outside of school. With the Super Bowl also in February, many finally felt like things were returning to how they were.
As we hit a year since the first quarantine began, we have made tremendous progress. This month, some students received the first dose of one of the vaccines, and many were optimistic to be receiving it in upcoming months as well. The high school has even gone over two months without a grade going into full-quarantine. It has been a long year, but even through Covid we have worked to stick together as a community.