LM rewind: year in review

2020 has been perhaps one of the most memorable years in recent history. From a global pandemic, to social injustice, to online learning, students and teachers alike have had to adjust their lifestyles to fit the changing world around them. As a result of the mayhem, it can be difficult to recollect all that truly did happen this year. Here is a recap of the major LM-related events of 2020.

2020 has been perhaps one of the most memorable years in recent history. From a global pandemic, to social injustice, to online learning, students and teachers alike have had to adjust their lifestyles to fit the changing world around them. As a result of the mayhem, it can be difficult to recollect all that truly did happen this year. Here is a recap of the major LM-related events of 2020: 

Photo courtesy of Max Harris

Kobe Bryant Tribute (January)

Kobe Bryant, one of LM’s most illustrious and notable alumni, tragically passed in a helicopter accident on January 26. His daughter, Gianna Bryant, along with seven other individuals, were also killed in the incident. Although the event was tragic for the LM community, and for fans across the world, the Aces were able to remember and cherish his legacy in various ways. Students, staff, and community members gathered at the entrance to the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium, leaving flowers, jerseys, and basketballs to pay homage to their idol. The school also paid tribute to Bryant and the victims in an event held on February 1. Principal Hughes unveiled two art pieces that had been donated by artists from the Philadelphia area. Then, Coach Gregg Downer and Assistant Coach Doug Young, a former teammate of Bryant, unveiled the framed number 33 jersey on the wall of the gymnasium. The ceremony concluded with a video chronicling Bryant’s time as an Ace and the impact he left on his alma mater.

 

Australian Wildfires (January)

Graphic by Chris de Santis ’20

During the month of January, extreme wildfires destroyed forests and lands across Australia, killing millions of animals and displacing thousands of people. The early stages of burning started in September, but the small bushfires soon escalated to massive flames that ravaged fifteen million acres of land. To help these communities, various clubs at LM took action to contribute to charities in the Australian cities of Sydney, Adelaide, and Victoria. Amnesty International raised money for the Mallacoota Wildlife Shelter by selling koala stickers and collecting donations. The Bulldog Animal Rescue Club (BARK), also contributed by organizing a bake sale. 

 

Amazing Ace (February 26)

Photo courtesy of The Enchiridion

In this year’s Amazing Ace, which had a theme of Ocean’s eleven, contestants joined together with Ace the Bulldog in an operation to steal Assistant Principal Scott Kilpatrick’s bolt cutters. The emcees, Ethan Schatz ’20, Amalia Schneider ’20, and Principal Sean Hughes, along with Ace the Bulldog, sought out to find candidates for the heist team, including seniors Aidan Barr Bono, Asher Goodwin, Justin McQueen, Joe Plavin, Maddie Pyankov, Sydney Schur, Ursula Walczak, and Roi Zarom in addition to juniors Mats Egberts and Max Forster. On top of winning the title of “The Amazing Ace,” each contestant competed for a charity of their choice. At the end of the night, Walczak, who competed for Paws and Affection, an organization that trains service dogs for children with disabilities, was declared the winner. Together, the contestants successfully raised a total of over 16,000 dollars–approximately 8,000 dollars of which was for the charities and the other half for the senior class. In a year that would have an abundance of negative events to concentrate on, through its entertainment and philanthropic success, Amazing Ace provided an unusual, positive experience.

 

COVID Shutdown (March to June)

Graphic by Emmi Wu ’23/Staff

The most prominent issue of 2020 was the COVID-19 pandemic. A new, unknown virus emerged from Wuhan, China and took the world by surprise. Not only was the disease very lethal, but it was also highly contagious. Only a few months after cases were reported in Washington, the entire country shut down. On March 13, Governor Tom Wolf announced that all K-12 Pennsylvania schools would be closed for ten business days effective March 16. However, little did we all know, students wouldn’t be entering the building until the month of October. As a result of the quarantine, many of the norms of high school disappeared: in-person learning, field trips, and standardized testing are among the few.

 

The End to Field Trips

LM’s diverse retreats and field trips were evidently cancelled because of the pandemic’s influence on not only the LM community but worldwide, forcing many destinations to be closed. Because of these cancellations, many clubs and students were left devastated and without the opportunity to travel with their fellow classmates and celebrate the previous hard work that had led to these respective trips. The junior class was not able to attend their annual trip to Six Flags because of the pandemic. The Orchestra’s Disney trip was not fulfilled either, which was particularly influential as the Orchestra is also not able to perform in concert for the school as was done in years prior. Not only were field trips postponed, but competitive events such as the Technology Students Association (TSA)’s state and national competitions were not able to take place as well. The preparation that had been involved with these activities could no longer be exhibited and students can no longer look forward to the trips that other classes had the opportunity to experience.

AP Catastrophe

Advanced Placement or AP classes and tests faced a significant change during the 2019-2020 school year and could possibly encounter similar modifications this school year. They were proctored online on the CollegeBoard website in a shortened format because of the detriments of COVID-19 on districts nationwide. In May, students logged into their accounts and took their exams within a 45 minute window. The tests also omitted the multiple choice sections with only the Free Response Questions being scored. CollegeBoard faced backlash because of this method of testing with many arguing that most students would not have adequate testing conditions, causing disadvantages to those who are able to access a proper environment. In an attempt to adapt to the circumstances, the AP tests additionally covered only the units taught in-person up until March. However, this meant that different schools perhaps could have learned different amounts than their counterparts. This 2020-2021 school year, CollegeBoard currently still plans to hold AP tests in May with the full-course knowledge. They do not plan to hold them online and hope that testing will be conducted in the same manner as previous years.

 

Online Graduation (June 17)

Photo courtesy of LMSD Newsroom

Although all students were impacted by the pandemic, seniors lost the most sought after celebration of their work: an in-person graduation. Instead of a traditional commencement where speakers step up to the podium and address a crowd of teary-eyed students and family members, speeches were compiled in a video format. Additionally, the seniors did not get the experience to step up on the stage, shake hands with Principal Hughes, and accept their diploma. They could only wait to hear their name called as the video played on. Despite this misfortune, there is no doubt that the graduates will continue to persevere and succeed in their future endeavors. As Hughes recited, “You’ve entered to learn. Now, go forth to serve.”

 

Summer of Advocacy (June to August)

Graphic by Emmi Wu ’23/Staff

Following the gruesome death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on May 25, nationwide protests sparked which called into question the rights and lives of African Americans in the U.S. Protests raged in cities across the country, from New York to Los Angeles, and the Black Lives Matter movement again took the forefront, causing Americans to question the ethics and use of police brutality in the U.S. Additionally, advocacy focused on the death of another recent victim of police brutality, Breonna Taylor. Taylor, a 26-year-old paramedic in Louisville, Kentucky, was killed on March 13 when three police officers raided her home claiming her live-in boyfriend possessed illegal contraband. While Taylor was killed over two months before Floyd, her death added to the growing anger against police in the U.S., further fueling protests and civil unrest. These widespread protests and advocacy called into question both police brutality and the systematic racism which allows for these actions to persist and thrive in the U.S. 

 

Online Advocacy

Handicapped by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions that were just being lifted at the onset of June, many Americans were prohibited from attending large gatherings or simply did not feel safe doing so. To voice their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the #BlackoutTuesday movement took hold. #BlackoutTuesday, or formerly the #TheShowMustBePaused movement, the brainchild of African American music marketing executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, was originally meant to halt music operations on Tuesday, June 2, to show solidarity for the death of Floyd and serve as a protest against police brutality. In order to participate, supporters were urged to post a completely black square on their Instagram page accompanied by the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday and/or #TheShowMustBePaused. As the movement gained traction, more than 11.3 million posts of the black square were present on Instagram, with members of the LM community displaying no hesitation in voicing their support for the movement. However, Black Lives Matter activists quickly noticed that supporters opted to use the #BlackLivesMatter tag along with the #BlackoutTuesday tag, which flooded the Black Lives Matter feed with countless black squares, serving as yet another obstacle for BLM organizers to overcome to effectively spread their message. 

Organized Marches in Philadelphia

Despite COVID-19 lockdowns, millions gathered in cities across the nation to protest police brutality and the nature of living as an African American in the U.S. today. While many protests experienced some form of notable civil disturbance, from unprompted police brutality to occasional looting, Philadelphia consistently made headlines for both the sheer numbers of people that turned out for the event as well as the numerous melees that resulted from the event. Mayor Jim Kenney was quick to deploy the Pennsylvania National Guard and SWAT teams to aid the police in containing the growing number of protestors. However, the excessive force quickly made national headlines, with Philadelphia Police frequently firing rubber bullets and utilizing tear gas in order to maintain peace in a crowd that many protestors claimed was causing no civil discourse. 

Organized Marches at LM

While some LM students traveled to Philadelphia to engage in protests there, many organized and attended local protests to voice their support for the BLM movement and challenge the rampant police brutality in the U.S. On Sunday, June 7, 1,500 LM residents gathered at Ardmore’s Vernon V. Young Memorial Park to protest police brutality, commemorate Floyd, Taylor, and others lost to police brutality, and call into question the white privilege and racial inequalities that remain widespread throughout both the LM community and the Main Line. Organized by recent LM graduate Nya Jarbah, LM principal Sean Hughes, Diversity Coordinator Taj Byrd, and other LM students, organizers sought to improve the conditions for African Americans in LM, a predominantly white area, as well as increase diversity counseling within LM schools. 

Town Halls and Speakers

Amidst the Black Lives Matter movement and those in Philadelphia vocalizing their opinions on recent police brutality, speakers have represented the thoughts of those in the LM community. For example, Christopher Bowman and Samantha Rise, both activists involved in BLM, spoke out at rallies and protested outside of Philadelphia’s town hall. In the LM community, Lower Merion Township’s Board of Commissioners wrote to those in the district sending their condolences to George Floyd and those touched by his death after hundreds of LM’s students and families walked in protest to campus. Many held up “BLM” and “Justice for Floyd” posters to silently articulate their support of the movement and signify the power of Floyd’s death in the district as well as the city.

 

Start of Online Learning (September)

Graphic by Katie Fang ’23/Staff

To prepare for improving the quality of school during the pandemic, the LMSD Board of Directors created several plans for the start of school, including virtual and hybrid learning. Following the school board’s decision a month earlier, LM began a totally virtual schedule for the beginning of the year. The new, all-virtual schedule was unlike anything LM had implemented before, and it took students a while to get accustomed to a schedule which no longer prioritized having six classes a day. The schedule dictated a later start time of 9 A.M., appealing to the persistent push to delay school start times to accommodate teenagers’ sleeping patterns. Additionally, students only had to endure four classes a day instead of the normal six classes a day, and could enjoy half hour breaks in between those classes with an hour break for lunch everyday. While remaining completely virtual was difficult, both students and teachers enjoyed the relaxed schedule until they could meet face-to-face in the near future. 

 

Hybrid (October)

Photo courtesy of Sophie Shin ’22

To begin the return to entirely in-person school, LM began to implement its hybrid schedule.  In this schedule, the school allowed students to come in on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays depending on their assigned cohort. The hybrid schedule was similar to the one before the pandemic in terms of the school start/end times and the number of classes. However, it was different in its inclusion of an A, B, and C lunch period to reduce the number of people in the cafeteria at once. To limit the risk of COVID-19, the school executed numerous safety measures, including a mask requirement, specific stairwells for going up and down, increased hand sanitizer machines, and more. Additionally, as part of the hybrid schedule, students benefited from “Blended Fridays,” which included office hours for each subject and an advisory period. Since the beginning of the school year, LM has shifted from virtual to hybrid multiple times and will continue to do so in 2021 as the pandemic progresses to allow entirely in-person school once again.

 

Election Reaction (November)

Photo courtesy of Aiko Palaypayon ’23/Staff

Similar to many of the other events of this year, the presidential election between President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was unpredictable due to the operational changes made to ensure safety during the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike previous elections, much of the population opted to vote by mail, which would lead to delayed ballot counting and results in many states. Therefore, the winner of the election was not determined until four days after, on Saturday, November 7. On this day, the Associated Press, along with other major news networks, declared Biden as the next President-Elect of the United States. After the election, the expanding chasm that defines our nation’s political division was demonstrated in the varying reactions of people throughout the country. In LM, Philadelphia, and various cities throughout the country, while many people took to the streets to celebrate Biden’s victory, others stormed state legislatures claiming that the entire election was rigged against Trump. As Trump refused to concede, his administration filed lawsuits in states across the nation alleging voter fraud and inaccuracies in ballot counting. However, to date, people increasingly acknowledge Trump’s loss, including some of his biggest supporters in politics, and the vast majority of his lawsuits have been rejected. 

 

Central League Success (November)

Photo courtesy of The Enchiridion

Despite the many challenges of continuing sports amidst the pandemic, LM’s fall sports prevailed. Two teams in particular, boys’ cross country and girls’ soccer, managed to be the victors of the Central League. The boys’ cross country team, led by Head Coach David VanHouten and Assistant Coach Neil Berman, entered the championship meet at Rose Tree Park with an undefeated record of 9-0. Their performance was phenomenal, with every Ace medaling. T.J. Gannon ’21 placed second, Alex Bullard ’22 third and Simon Schmieder ’22 fifth. The other medalists include David Litvin ’22, Robert D’Aquila ’21, Ethan Blum ’21 and Henry Folk ’21. Collectively, they scored an astonishing thirty more points than the runner up, Conestoga. The girls’ soccer team also had an undefeated record of 12-0 going into the championship game versus Radnor. Head Coach Kevin Ries and Assistant Coach Brian Feeney led the Aces to a 2-0 shutout game, with goals scored by Grace Downey ’23 and Audrey Brown ’21. 

 

Winter Sports Postponement (December)

Photo courtesy of The Enchiridion

On November 16, the LMSD Board of Directors rejected the initial winter sports proposal for Athletics Health and Safety in a 5-4 vote. Then, on December 7, with a 7-2 vote, the board approved a similar plan with small revisions, allowing for the onset of the winter sports season. The Athletic Directors at LM and Harriton, Jason Stroup and Tom Ferguson, respectively, created these plans, which consisted of safety measures including a mask requirement, locker room protocols, and alternating schedules for all teams. With this approval, practices for the winter sports season began on December 8. However, only two days later, on December 10, PA Governor Tom Wolf suspended all in-person interscholastic sports until January 4. As the consistently evolving situation regarding COVID-19 progresses into 2021, LM’s student-athletes will anxiously wait to find out if their beloved winter sports season will continue.

In 2020, the tragedy that the LM community faced was unignorable. But as we enter 2021 and the following years, we can use this tragedy as a learning experience. Defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year was unforgettable, and it will most definitely strengthen our appreciation of life afterward.