The Year in which the Unexpected Became Expected: 2020-2021 School Year Review


Last September, I had no idea what to expect from the 2020-2021 school year. The last school year ended with three months of remote learning, and over the summer after my sophomore year I had no in-person academic activities. My academic world had gone virtual, and I had become used to the constant zooms and google hangouts. Over summer, my friends attending different schools, from Brecksville to St. Ignatius to St. Joe’s, began to receive the expected emails from their respective schools that the school year would begin in either a remote or hybrid manner. I braced myself for what I viewed as the inevitable email that we would begin the school year with the same format. On July 20 though, the community received the email which I am sure subverted the expectations of many within the community. 


I was ecstatic. For months, I had been preparing for another virtual school year. Another year of online classes, minimal teacher-student interaction, and the separation from the brotherhood that, to me, has been the most defining feature of my time at Saint Edward. My teacher and community leader stated it in the best, most blunt way I’ve heard, saying that the joy she derived from teaching came from the personal relationships engendered within the classroom, joy which was minimized by the necessary introduction of online school. With that email from Mr. McKenna, my hopes for the next school year exponentiated. I became excited for school for the first time in months. When in-person school became a real possibility, I felt that my St. Edward experience would return back to the brotherhood that it had been before. Unlike the thousands of other schools that went virtual, St. Ed’s would be one of the few that could offer students a top-tier education in an in-person environment.

However, fellow students and I had our doubts for sure. Last summer, COVID-19 was still a relative mystery to most of us. We had never been in an in-person learning environment since the pandemic began, and most of our normal activities had either been canceled or transformed into either virtual or heavily socially-distanced events. I remember my friends and I saying that the school year would run for a few weeks, until that inevitable first COVID-19 case which would lead to the resumption of online classes to the disappointment of all. While I hoped for success with all my heart, I was doubtful how cases would be mitigated in the usually close-quarters environment of school. 


Looking back, I can see just how wrong I was. Over the entire course of the school year, we only had to use 5 of our extra days reserved for COVID-19 shutdowns, and aside from that the year felt as close to possible as I could have possibly expected. When the first confirmed case was emailed to the community, I began to countdown the days until we would go virtual. That day never came. Instead, we persevered and continued to come to school every day. At no point was school moved to a virtual environment, and the school year remained as normal as possible. Clubs, extracurriculars, and sports teams continued to meet day in and day out. So many times I have heard what truly defines the St. Edward experience is the activities outside the classroom, and we were able to recover this time which allowed us to pursue our interests in the company of peers. Sports resumed, St. Ed’s hosted a partial in-person Model UN Conference, Science Olympiad met in-person for competitions, and so many more activities were finally able to be held once again. 


One of the milestone moments of the school year for me was at the OHSAA regional semi-final basketball game in Norwalk. After one whole year of limited attendance at sporting events, there was finally a student section for a basketball game. It felt as if one aspect of the normal high school experience had returned, and although we lost after a remarkable basketball season, it still brought great joy to the community that the student section was able to return to sporting events. The play was a similar milestone for the school. In the weeks leading up to the play, the school began to feel like it should before a play. There was tech week, rehearsals, and every day I could see the stage continue to develop more. To me, prom was the final reinforcement of the school’s resilience through the pandemic. Prom was held at St. Ed’s this year, and every student I asked regarding their prom experience had a genuinely positive view. In fact, many students even said they wished prom could continue to be on campus. for future classes. Perhaps long-term improvements were uncovered along the arduous path of the 2020-2021 school year. But at the end of the year, campus began to operate the way students remember, and I felt as if we had gotten past the pandemic which had loomed over the school for so many months.


Looking forward to next year, I believe that the school will only reap the benefits of this fully in-person school year. Learning and extracurricular activities remained in-person, and unlike many other schools the quality of learning did not suffer. The momentum will only continue throughout the next school year. Also, we will finally get back many of the things we missed out on this year. Community period will return, lunches will not have to be packaged individually and restricted, clubs can return to having in-person events, and sports will have the crowds the St. Ed’s community has grown accustomed to. The campus will have the energy that we all know and love. I look forward to the coming school year, and I sincerely hope that everyone takes advantage of the wonderful opportunities that will be offered.