The front of the school coming under attack by an enlarged COVID-19 virus
Credit: Evan Sharrard, 42Fifty

March 13, 2020. It was a time of great hope: the class of 2020 was putting its finishing touches on things such as prom and the yearly senior celebration, teachers were preparing for the start of Spring Break, which was just seven days away, and the beginning of the spring sports season was imminent. It was everything a member of Oswego High School would want the month of March to be…almost. 

What students and faculty didn’t know was that the world as we knew it was about to change. Not just for a few weeks, or a few months, but for the next year. And one year later, we still are feeling the effects of the events of the past year, the events that all started on that pivotal day: March 13, 2020. 

No group of people (outside of frontline health workers) has been dealt as rotten a hand as teachers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, an eternity ago, many teachers never could have foreseen what was going to happen. 

“Monday of that week, Mr. Gothelf and I actually got into a little bit of a…disagreement in the office during lunch, where he was basically saying that was going to be a huge deal and this was going to impact things,” history teacher Aaron Henricks said. “I was basically kinda poking fun at the people freaking out, grabbing toilet paper, and going overboard with the food. I was saying ‘Look, I’m not saying don’t take it seriously–because it’s very serious, especially what was going on in Italy, but let’s wait and see.’” 

Henricks had no idea where everything was headed. But he wasn’t the only one. Spanish teacher Evan Prizy shared Henricks’ thought process; yes, the virus should be taken seriously, but the delay in our lives it will have will be minimal. 

“I had heard whispers of, ‘Hey we know that there’s some weird sickness over in China and they’re thinking it might be heading out to other places,’” Prizy said. “I knew that that was kind of the foundation of everything, but I had no clue it was gonna come through and do what it did.”

Well, the 13th carried on, and as the day continued, rumors were flying around the school. Would the school shut down for a week? Would students be forced to learn from home next week? Nobody seemed to know, and those that did, weren’t even all that sure themselves. 

Yes, the virus should be taken seriously, but the delay in our lives it will have will be minimal.

Mr. Cermak

“I just remember it was like a feeling—on the 13th, as we came up to that day—it was a feeling of a carnival atmosphere,” Prizy said. “People were excited, they didn’t know what was gonna happen, ‘Are we gonna have school? Are we not gonna have school? Is spring break gonna be 2 weeks instead of a week and a half?’”

Physics teacher Jacob Cermak shared a similar experience in seeing all the excitement within his class, which unexpectedly became a bit of a wake-up call.

“Day one you’re like, ‘This is great,’ and then day two you’re like, ‘OK, now we have to figure out what we’re doing for the rest of the year.’”yes, the virus should be taken seriously, but the delay in our lives it will have will be minimal,” Cermak said.

For the rest of the year, the school would gauge the risks and eventually, return students and staff to the building…at least that was the plan.

“I was like, ‘Alright, I can work with that: I can have a few extra days on my spring break. It’ll mess up planning a little bit, but whatever. We’ll get around it,’” Prizy said. “Then the days come and go, and they’re like, ‘Hey you know what, we’re gonna take a little extra time, and we’re gonna do some online learning, and we’ll try and re-group in a couple weeks.’ I was like ‘huh? Didn’t see that coming.’”

That was just the tip of the iceberg. 

“After that, it was just domino after domino,” Prizy said. “It turned out to be the rest of the semester.  They made the call: We’re going to stay remote for the rest of the year and pick it back up again in the fall.”

The 2019-2020 school year ended in a series of unfortunate events, and similar to Lemony Snicket’s version, ours was left open ended.

“Sometime in the summer, I was talking with some co-workers and they were like, ‘Yeah this isn’t going away, we’re starting hybrid,’’ Prizy said. “Well, it turned out we started fully remote.”

Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, OHS has come a long way. The students have become more acclimated to online learning, as have teachers, and the introduction of hybrid learning has allowed for limited in-person learning. However, the impact of COVID-19 still looms, preventing the return to “normal” schooling.

For now, OHS will remember March 13 as the anniversary of when school as we knew it stopped.

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