Side By Side… And Safe!


Students collaborating with their advisory during senior orientation.

With the 2020-2021 Saint Edward school year fast approaching, students have already returned to campus for the yearly tradition of orientation. For six months, students have been, for the most part, separated from the majority of the Saint Edward experience and campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This orientation was not only a mode of educating students on Phase 1 of the return to school, but it was also a way to reintroduce students to their peers and the school they have greatly missed for six months. 

The orientation day began with students reporting to their advisory rooms for this school year, and unlike last year, every day students choose to learn in-person, they will be with their advisory for lunch, and in the case of IB students, their Theory of Knowledge (TOK) class. The advisors went over changes to this school year, and students were also able to meet their advisories, which in many cases changed greatly from the year before. Following this, students went to the front lawn for mass and words from Principal KC McKenna ‘00. Mr. McKenna spoke wonderfully about the revamped school year in light of the pandemic. He outlined the true resilience and resolve we as a community must demonstrate in order to continue this school year in person, as if only one person makes a mistake and contracts COVID-19 outside of school then come to school in-person, the entire school year can crumble. In addition, Mr. McKenna outlined many of the specific changes being made to this school year, and he illustrated what many components of Saint Edward would look like during Phase 1 of the back to school plan and beyond.

Following this, mass was celebrated in the front lawn with Father Elbert of Saint Luke Church in Lakewood. This was a beautiful moment for me and much of the class. For 6 months, we were separated from the faith community at Saint Edward, and this mass was the first we had since February. It made me realize just how much the faith pillar of Saint Edward matters to me, and this event grew the desire inside me to return to school. This mass was much like any other Saint Edward mass, with the eucharist, choir, and the leadership of the Saint Edward Student Ministry. Here, Father Elbert described to us the fire instilled into us by the holy spirit, and how this fire and passion would allow us to get through a school year that is far different from any we have experienced in the past. With the Holy Spirit guiding us in this school year, Saint Edward can get through anything that is thrown at us. This school year would only get away from us if we lost this fire within our souls, and by maintaining a passion for learning and the Saint Edward community, both students and faculty can move beyond masks, remote learning, and strict guidelines, and the school can enjoy the success it has felt in the past.

Following mass, each advisory went through 19 stations, with each station containing a different activity for students to compete in. However, this experience was not purely for fun, as before students were able to participate in each activity, they had to answer a question about the return to school policy. This allowed students to become acquainted with the new rules for the 2020-2021 school year while also being able to enjoy themselves with activities. While every station was enjoyable, there were a few highlights from the day. The golf station was one that I found to be particularly enjoyable. Students, after they had answered the question correctly, had to use irons to hit birdie balls (balls which have similar flight paths but less distance than normal golf balls) into a target. I never expected to actually golf on the Saint Edward turf, and this station was easily one of the most enjoyable of the day.

Students at the Pass the Ball station look to set a station record during student orientation.

Another highlight of the day was the station run by Coach Urbas in the Hall of Fame Hallway. There, students participated in a scavenger hunt for various Saint Edward athletic achievements, such as our first olympian. Once this was finished, Coach Urbas shared stories collected through his many years at Saint Edward, and these stories captivated both me and my fellow classmates. Through his anecdotes, we were able to learn Saint Edward history we otherwise would have never learned about, such as the school’s reaction to the somber events of 9/11, and various athletic stories, such as a sub-200 pound wrestler pinning a 300-pound heavyweight. While these stations were certainly two highlights of the day, every other station was enjoyable in its own respect, and other students certainly have different highlights to their orientation days than me. 

Students collaborating with their advisory during senior orientation.

While the orientation day was fun, that was not its only purpose. There, we learned and were reminded of many of the safe return to school policies outlined to use previously by Mr. McKenna. One of the most important things spoken about by Mr. McKenna was the proper wearing of masks on school grounds. Students could not become complacent with their mask-wearing, and these did not simply have to be on at all times, but they also had to be worn properly. The mask has to cover your nose, mouth, and chin from the moment one steps out of their car to the time where the return to their car at the end of day, with exceptions for certain activities and eating. In addition, this is the first year in its 70 years of existence where ties are not required by Saint Edward. Ties, as explained by Mr. McKenna, are rarely washed by students, and can often be a harbinger of germs. Also, ties are known by many as the least comfortable part of the dress code, and with the mask mandate for this school year, the administration deemed it necessary to make the dress code more comfortable by allowing students to forgo the wearing of ties. Lastly, the hours of school operations have changed from what they have been in the past, and the academic wing of the school now opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m to allow for proper sanitation of school grounds between school days. Unlike last year, students could not remain at school until the evening hours for extracurricular and co-curricular activities. This year, many students including myself must change our habits in order to allow for the school to remain open throughout a pandemic.