The Constant Change of a Pandemic Year: The ’21-’22 School Year

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As we step forward into the upcoming school year, many things remain up in the air. When the COVID-19 pandemic began over a year ago, in March of 2020, the world was promised that a “new normal” would emerge and we would figure out how to live around the pandemic. With the intensity and focus poured into creating a vaccine, however, it started to look like we could have the “old normal” back relatively quickly, if vaccination rates kept on an upward trend. Until the rise of the Delta Variant, we were on track to head back into what appeared to be a properly normal school year. 

But what even was a normal school year? People packed together in locker areas and classrooms, bare faces revealed to the world? School years without masks and social distancing seem to be a thing of legend, even though it was only about a year and a half ago that the pandemic started. Pivoting and adjusting to new challenges are a part of everyday life now. One day it seems like as a global community we will never overcome the pandemic and the next day it seems like we’ve beaten it back. 

Now, confusing questions are arising. While masks aren’t required in every establishment in town, should they be worn anyways? What about social distancing? What if a family member has COVID, or you were in close contact with a friend who tested positive? In a short video released prior to the beginning of the school year, Mr. Nathan Sheldon, Head of School, and the new nurse, Kaitlin Wade, RN, discussed what campus could possibly look like shifting into the new year. Nurse Wade, a former trauma nurse, joins us this year on campus in order to safely guide us through the school year and back into a sense of normalcy. She came to know of Casady last year whilst setting up a community testing and contact tracing site here. “First and foremost, our goal is to provide a health-minded and engaging learning environment for everyone on campus.” Describing this year as “yet another somewhat covid-year […] hopefully it’s not as long and tedious as last year,” the video shares guidelines for the year but also a sense of hope for a return to the “old normal.” At the end of the video, it’s shared that while not mandatory, vaccination is highly recommended, remote-learning is not an option, and masks would be optional for fully-vaccinated individuals. Lunch in Calvert will restart and daily chapel services will resume in the chapel, but masks must be worn inside these buildings, no matter what.

Then the Delta variant came and things changed. For vaccinated students, mask optional turned into a mask mandate. Lunches in Calvert will no longer be all-division lunches, but two grades at a time. This school year will require flexibility and grace, more so than any other school year, as we walk the line between the new and old normals. While some things have to give, others are being reshaped to fit safely in our daily lives. 

Events like Homecoming, Winter Ball, and Fall Fest–they are all still up in the air. “StuCo will continue to plan functions and work closely with school administrators to abide by safety protocols. The goal is to still have annual school events,” Audrey Haynes, Student Council Public Relations Chair, expressed. “However, student safety is the first priority. Student Council’s planning efforts will have to adapt to school and state guidelines.”

The Communications Chair, Pari Gulati, added, “StuCo will do whatever is necessary to keep people safe, whether that means hosting pep rallies and events outside or staying 3-6 feet apart inside.” All throughout the pandemic, flexibility and grace have been vital to maintaining connections and community. This year will be one for the books, regardless of how the coronavirus pandemic plays out, and we will all have to remain patient, gracious, and kind to one another as we attempt to find our way through murky waters. Change is one of the constants we will have to rely on this year, along with ourselves and each other. As Mr. Sheldon likes to finish off his messages, it is a certainty that despite all the changes and uncertainties, we will remain Cyclone Strong!