Nik Chupkin and Will Burns | Photoillustration
As the school year approaches its end amid COVID-19 shelter-in-place-orders, Stuart Hall administrators are attempting to carry out senior traditions while maintaining social distancing measures, but uncertainty still looms in the seniors’ futures.
“I’m very sorry that they’re going to be experiencing these things in a different way,” Head of School Tony Farrell said about annual senior traditions. “We also hope that the experience they can have is one that will be meaningful and memorable.”
Seniors got together via Zoom for their annual retreat from the comfort of their homes rather than in the Santa Cruz Mountains on May 7.
During the retreat, seniors listened to a webinar from Lisa Damour, a best-selling author and psychologist specializing in the development of teenage girls, who spoke about navigating the end of senior year during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Certainly we weren’t up among redwood trees or some beautiful hillside,” Farrell said. “You go to trees and you go to beautiful environments, and it’s a retreat from the ordinary. Unfortunately for our students, they were only around their ordinary.”
Poet David Whyte, who is a leader in the field of conversational leadership, also led a workshop about embracing uncertainty in the future.
Convent & Stuart Hall mailed seniors packages with items to help them create a space for reflection despite the class not physically being together at a retreat center.
“We sent every senior a blanket, a journal and a tea light, all to help them create a space for themselves,” Farrell said. “It’s a challenge to try to recreate retreat experiences. I felt very affirmed by their work that they are ready to make this next step.”
Although final plans for the seniors receiving their diplomas were not available at press time, it is unlikely the San Francisco Health Department will allow a large-scale graduation at the Pine/Octavia Campus.
“Obviously I’m disappointed about not having a traditional graduation,” Ryan Darwin said, “but knowing Stuart Hall, I’m confident that whatever we do will be special.”
Darwin, along with other seniors, said he is still unsure about how his freshman year at college will unfold.
“With every day and every new story that comes out, I start to think about backup plans a little more,” Darwin said about attending the University of Washington in the fall. “Seattle was hit pretty hard and expects another wave. I need to be realistic and think about other options for next year.”
Henry Sears also said he is worried about his freshman year being postponed or conducted online.
“I’m going to be attending the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po,” Sears, who will be going to school in Paris, said. “I’m really nervous that college might not start in person in the fall. I would have to contend with a big time difference, unless I could get a visa and move.”
Lance Tam, who plans to attend the University of British Columbia, says he is fairly certain what his college classes will look like during the fall semester.
“My bigger lectures are going to be online,” Tam said, “but smaller classes are still going to be in person, just with social distancing measures enacted.”
Tam says he is trying to stay optimistic despite beginning some of his classes online.
“I’ve come to learn to have an open mind,” Tam said, “and accept that events like this do happen, and change is necessary to brave through it.”