By Ava Aschettino
The 2020-2021 school year was one full of loss, isolation, and uncertainty. Calling this year unique would be an understatement. Yet, despite the hardships, the OBEN community persevered through one of the most difficult school years to date. The community adapted, becoming more flexible and resilient in the classroom. While there were limitations to how students could attend school and in what capacity they could participate in activities, the OBEN community collaborated to overcome these obstacles. Through livestreams, social distancing measures, mask requirements, and crowd limitations, students were able to carry on as close to ‘normal’ as possible. Was it perfect? Far from it. But these efforts restored a sense of normalcy to the quintessential OBHS experience. Let's take a look back at some of the highlights of the 2020-2021 school year to see just how OBHS adapted to the pandemic.
Welcoming Students Back to School
OBHS welcomed students back to school for the first time since March 13, 2020, on September 8, 2020. At the start of the school year, all 9-12 OBHS students engaged in either hybrid or fully remote learning. For the students in school, hallways and staircases were labeled as one direction only, students had to carry desk guards from class to class, masks were mandated at all times, surfaces such as door handles were sanitized between periods, and students logged into Zoom or Google Meet for every class. While students are now either fully in-person or fully remote, COVID restrictions have eased over time. Overall, OBHS had a successful start to the 2020-2021 school year!
Now, where to begin with sports? At the beginning of the school year, no sports teams were permitted to play; only intramurals with heavy restrictions were allowed. While sports were eventually granted the green light, many assumed the seasons would not look the way they do now. Certain low risk, non-contact sports were allowed to commence during the winter. From there, more sports were granted permission to resume with altered season spans. In March, student athletes were able to participate in high-contact sports, such as football. Many sports required weekly COVID testing if the sport was considered a high-risk activity. While season timelines were altered and shortened, many were simply relieved to have their sports seasons back.
Concerts and OBHS Musical
While OBHS student musicians and actors have missed performing in concerts and productions in the auditorium, this year families and community members had the opportunity to watch concerts and the high school musical “Songs for a New World” from the comfort of their own homes. Here's how it worked: for the band, all the members of the ensemble would gather, socially distant, to perform their repertoire. This recording was then released with other band and choral ensembles. For choral groups, each performer would have to sing in time with an audio track. All the tracks would then be compiled, creating the illusion that the students had performed together as a choral unit. For “Songs for a New World,” actors performed while the show was live streamed to audiences at home. Seniors, however, were granted tickets for two guests on only one of the performance nights. So, while the audience was nearly nonexistent, performers in the cast did get to enjoy a small crowd and real-life applause. As for how the students performed this show, actors were required to sing twelve feet apart while in masks. Since many feared the concerts and musical would be cancelled, the community was relieved that they still got to enjoy performances in a nontraditional format.
Advanced Placement exams required an elongated testing period this year, with AP testing dates ranging from May 3rd to June 11th. There were three testing dates available for each exam, from which schools had the option to register for in-person or remote exams. While in-person exams carried on as they usually do, digital exams were a new addition to the AP season. At-home exams were three hours long, required a lockdown browser, and prohibited students from viewing prior questions. Students could request to take the digital exam at school, as well. While these exams were different, OBHS staff prepared students well for how to deal with this new testing style.
Academic Awards Nights
Over the first two days of June, OBHS successfully accomplished its annual Academic Awards Night(s). Grades 9-11 had their awards night on June 1st, followed by the Senior Awards Night on June 2nd. All invited students were allowed to attend an in-person ceremony. Guests were limited to two people for each senior. While the event was also live streamed, the turnout from both seniors and the audience made the night seem rather “normal.”
Despite the difficulties of this school year, OBHS persevered through it all. While this year was not like any other, it highlighted OBHS’s ability to adapt while still providing a rigorous education and valuable extracurriculars. What did this school year prove? That OBHS is stronger than a global pandemic.
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