The COVID-19 pandemic changed 2020 with 2021 soon to follow. Last spring, students faced a shift to virtual learning, cancellation of prom and the modification of commencement. While prom could not be rescheduled or modified, graduating seniors celebrated their commencement with a car parade and drive-thru diploma ceremony.
According to the Director of the Upper School, Ms. Elizabeth Edmondson, Homecoming this year is an ongoing discussion. While students are still unable to participate in mass gatherings by order of Governor Mike Dewine, the administration would like to see students able to enjoy some kind of Homecoming celebration.
There is talk about possibly having students attend a drive-in movie or a trivia night where students will be in their cars (social distancing) and together at the same time (school spirit). Ms. Edmondson invites students to discuss their ideas with each other and choose what they think they would most like to do and what would be possible in this COVID-19 environment.
This school year, Convocation at the Academy provides students with a new experience meant to maintain a sense of community. Director of Mission Integration, Ms. Whitney Daly, helped turn Convocation into a virtual experience.
Ms. Daly said it is important to continue having Convocation because it is a space for everyone to “communicate as a whole community,” a “time where we can celebrate the community,” and it “highlights the parts of people that we don’t always see in class.”
Convocation this year is available to all students in all locations via livestream from the Chapel. While the format is similar to last year, the hope is to make it more student-led and have different clubs and teams be highlighted every day.
Elisa Flynn (‘22) appreciates how the Convocation experience has been restored, but all cancellations and modifications are adding up. She said, “It just feels like parts of my life are missing. I’m beginning to feel kind of numb at this point.” Since her skating competitions have been canceled, Flynn is even more grateful that Gilmour is able to have a full tennis season this fall.
Restrictions on social gatherings and changes to class schedules continue to impact the daily lives of high school students. But the community’s interest in salvaging as much in-person experience as possible remains visibly evident. Flynn said that the Gilmour Mission “is strengthened because we have to wear our masks more, and we have to do what is right for others.”
The fall sports season is yet another aspect that has been affected by the pandemic. Because of the six-foot distance requirement and a maximum of 10-people gatherings, not only is gameplay impacted but so are social gatherings that are important in making memories
with the team and the fans. Charlie Shepherd (‘21) is a football player whose season has been shortened due to the virus. He said, “It’s definitely a bummer because so much has changed. It kind of takes away from our social experience and our last year of high school.”
Shepherd is among many students who have to cope with changes, but he and his teammates are “making the most of every practice they have together.” Student-athletes have expressed how they appreciate every game and practice more now because they never know when things might change again for their seasons.
The Academy worked hard to save as many things as possible. Director of Institutional Advancement, Mr. Ray Murphy, said the cancellation of certain events is unavoidable because of COVID-19 Safety requirements. Necessary cancellations include: Homecoming Tailgate, Pep Rally picnic, the October Scholarship Luncheon, Christmas at the Academy party in December for alumni, parents and faculty and staff, all regional alumni gatherings normally held in New York City, Chicago, Naples, Boston, and Washington DC, and the Women’s Club annual Fall Fashion Show.
Events like Reunion Weekend in June, this summer’s Gilmour Golf Classic in Memory of Charlie Tremont ‘70, and Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony are or will be rescheduled or planned differently while Men’s and Women’s Club Meetings and Networking Breakfasts have all moved to online format.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, coaches, teachers, administrators and students are working to keep school life as normal as possible.