BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - College decisions, prom dresses, and graduation caps are on every high school senior’s mind the second they hear the first bell ring on the first day of school. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. 

Instead, vaccines, masks, and Zoom meetings have replaced those happier thoughts, as the class of 2021 started their senior year in an unconventional way. 

Students spend most of their high school careers looking forward to the various traditions that make senior year special. So, when the school year started on a hybrid schedule and with no planned events, seniors were rightfully disappointed. 

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“It’s definitely not fun going through this my senior year,” Abby McLaughlin said. “It’s stressful and sad that I am missing big events like FNL [Friday Night Lights].”

In addition to canceled, or indefinitely postponed, events, the hybrid schedule has changed the game for seniors. Halloween Spirit Week, for example, was split between two weeks, so students who were wearing matching costumes with their friends in the opposite cohort were unable to dress up at school together. 

Despite the atypical schedule, seniors are trying to maintain a positive attitude. 

McLaughlin said, “I am very grateful that I am able to go to school at all with the hybrid schedule. I know a lot of seniors all over the U.S. don't get to go to school at all.”

The administration has remained sympathetic to the Class of 2021’s plight, and have taken it into consideration when brainstorming about alternative approaches to events this year. 

Principal Robert Nixon said that he hopes to pick up senior celebrations when it is deemed safe and appropriate by the state. He, and the rest of the administration, have already thought about hosting a Friday Night Lights game in the spring when things may be safer. Another option is a potential senior picnic with social distancing 

Above all, the administration is hopeful that at least some senior activities will occur, albeit modified, because of the success they had with the Class of 2020 activities. 

Nixon said, “We did a lot for seniors during the spring to give them an authentic experience, like an outdoor prom. And we had graduation in July over two days instead of in June over one day.”

While it is likely that the Class of 2022 will experience a much more normal senior year, the pandemic has proved that nothing can be predicted. 

Concerned about the fate of sports next year, junior Julia Burns said, “It would really be a bummer to lose my senior year sports, and partially my junior year too,” she said. 

However, the triple season athlete also said that her junior year is going pretty well, given the circumstances, and is remaining optimistic about the future. 

Senior Cierra Blair said, “I think it is ironic because we were all making fun of the seniors last year and we don’t really have a normal school year. For my senior year, I don’t think the whole thing is ruined, but it has stopped it.”

Students did get a brief return to normalcy when the school transitioned to a half-day schedule on November 9, with six courses meeting a day instead of the eight-course schedule that started the year. The majority of students supported this new plan, as it moves them one step closer to the year they had originally anticipated.