The end of the school year. A time filled with traditions: graduation, sports banquets, assemblies. For seniors, it’s the last final bit of a year filled with finalities. For juniors, it’s the end to a year of rigor, looking ahead to the height of the college process. Sophomores abandon their status as underclassmen; freshmen can celebrate the completion of their first year in the Upper School. Spring at KO is the final stretch. Students come out of March break, brimming with excitement and newfound motivation. Except this year, we’ve never truly left March break. At the time I’m writing this, May is nearly over, yet I’m still typing April onto my assignments. Without the activities and customs that are essential to the KO spring, the year feels incomplete; there’s no period to the sentence of the 2020-2021 school year.
Without the coveted spring routine and with students and faculty separated into our homes, the community that we as an institution value so heavily feels slightly disconnected. In a time of missing friends and longing for those sunny days on campus, it’s easy to focus solely on what we’ve lost. While missing out on so many of the experiences we look forward to all winter isn’t easy, I think it’s given an opportunity for KO to shine; being a day school has allowed KO to maintain a close community that many other private schools have lost. Boarding schools have sent at least half, if not more, of their student body back to homes that are miles and miles away. For KO, there are no worries as to how students will be housed next fall and what dorms will look like post-corona.
KO evades these issues as a day school. While the administration is certainly tasked with difficulties that shouldn’t be downplayed, it would be easy to underestimate the advantages we have as a community. Yes, we’re all socially distant and some people’s commutes are significantly longer than others, but we’re all still relatively close. The seniors can take a drive back to campus, sign the rock, and reunite for a real graduation. Drive-by birthday parties and meet-ups in parking lots are a taste of normalcy that students who took planes home can’t enjoy. We can still see friends on weekends (six feet away of course), and we can still make summer plans with friends in what will hopefully be a more normal future.
In all honesty, online learning has felt like it’s dragged on for a while. I often find myself counting down the days until summer and excitedly checking off each final project I finally complete. However, the reality is that it’s tough to predict what the summer will actually look like. With the current climate, jobs for high school students are out of the question, and summer programs have been seriously reduced with their shift to online. The next three months could very well end up as an uneventful continuation of quarantine life. With this thought in mind, my appreciation for the effort of our faculty and administrators has only grown. Even if it has to be through Zoom, there is still a community giving as much support to its students as possible. The final semester of schools like Westminster and Miss Porter’s have abruptly ended, but we still have the virtually smiling faces of teachers and classmates for a little bit longer. We’re a part of a community that values maintaining a sense of intimacy with its members, despite the uncertainties of the pandemic. The community is willing to see this year through in its entirety, which only speaks volumes about the thought and care it holds for everyone in it. With all our minds hyper-focused on the what-ifs of next fall, at least we can appreciate the community and the small victories it provides.