July 02, 2021

Reflecting Upon a Year of COVID-19

Brandon Neblett



This spring in the Upper School was all about having more students on campus. After careful planning, every student who wanted to attend class four days per week on campus began doing so on February 22. There was an immediate injection of energy into the Upper School as we doubled the number of students in the building every day. More than 150 students moved through the halls, bringing back that familiar buzz of GCS teenagers moving in significant numbers together. And as the spring athletic season got underway and warmer weather drew us out onto the newly expanded patio behind the Upper School (courtesy of the Class of 2021) for lunch, it felt more like “real” school had returned.


However, with the arrival of April, the first spring events marked the beginning of the end of the year. The annual National Honor Society Induction and Senior-Trustee Breakfast heralded the first of a series of celebrations of GCS seniors. They ended their final day of academic classes, Friday, May 14, with a slideshow and music in the Forum, surrounded by faculty and fellow students. We sent them off to their community service projects and internships the following week with a car parade through campus, cheered on by the entire school. Picking up their Commencement boxes from Mr. Ventre and me on their way past the gym, we wished them well for their final two weeks as GCS students. 


Commencement this year will celebrate a class that endured the trials of COVID-19 throughout their entire senior year. We celebrate their resilience, perseverance, and composure, demonstrated both at home and on campus. This year challenged them in myriad ways, forcing them to change, shift and constantly adapt to new expectations. Even as this article goes to print, Mr. Ventre, the school’s Leadership Team, and Health Committee are determining how best to revise plans for Commencement itself in the wake of newly-announced changes in pandemic protocols from the state and county. 


As we look ahead to next year, we all crave a return to normalcy, and for many of us, this summer will provide the first opportunity in more than a year to unwind at our own pace. Stability and predictability have never looked so good. This fall, we will appreciate many of the routines that we took for granted for so long. Almost every day, I pause at some point to indulge, in my mind’s eye, several sights I came to love during my first wonderful pre-pandemic months in the Upper School: eating pizza with seniors in my office, interacting with students in classrooms, talking to the student body in Forum, even just shaking hands and giving high-fives.


I long for those simple acts and experiences. I miss being able to share them with this year’s graduating class and to watch them interact with each other; this has been the biggest disappointment of the past year for me. So, as I think back over the spring, I am already anticipating those first weeks of school in September where students and faculty can gather and connect here in these simple yet significant ways again. I hope that this year’s graduates can return to GCS in the winter and spring to reconnect with us in similar ways. I will be more eager to see them than any senior class I have ever had. 

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