The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Students Kick Off 2020-21 School Year From Home

Seniors take a “Zoomshot” wearing formal attire on the first day of school. This WIS tradition is usually commemorated by a picture on the Mansion steps, but it looked different this school year.(Saul Pink/International Dateline)

On the first day of school, WIS students rush to the Hall of Peace, Davies Hall, or the Senior Lounge to see their friends after a long summer. It’s a day of excitement and nerves. Students meet their new teachers and classmates, take first day pictures, and have a memorable start to the year ahead. 

This year looked different. With the coronavirus still thriving, students clicked a Zoom link on Monday morning and began the school year virtually.

“Distance learning has provided us with completely uncharted territory, but we are going to do the best we can to adapt our traditions to the current situation,” ISU co-president Patrick Anders said in the upper school opening assembly. 

One long-lasting first day of school tradition is seniors coming to school in formal attire: suits and white dresses. That tradition continued , with the annual picture of the well-dressed seniors on the mansion steps replaced by a Zoom screenshot. Along with the first day, 12th-graders participated in “Senior Spirit Week,” featuring themes such as Beach Day and Tie-Dye Day. However, participation from the Class of 2021 was scarce.

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“Spirit week was pretty hard to pull off this year. I don’t think it was successful,” senior Mounis Cader said. “I would only have done it if I was in school right now.”

The first day started with advisory meetings, followed by an upper school assembly. The 300-person Zoom call featured introductions from six WIS administrators, including Head of School Suzanna Jemsby, Upper School Principal Sarah Polland, first-year Assistant Principal for Grades 9-10 Allison Ewing, and new Athletic Director Floreal Pedrazo.

This year also features seven new upper school faculty members starting their new jobs over Zoom.

The only student speakers at the assembly were the ISU Co-Presidents: Anders and senior Riley Contee. In their opening address, the pair quoted Uncle Iroh from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” as a model for approaching school this year: “Sometimes life is like a dark tunnel. You can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving, you will come to a better place.”

“We’ve already started to see the light in our current situation. Picking up new hobbies, finally cleaning out your room, or experiencing funny moments, like [sophomore Terrence Williams] talking with his mic way too close to his mouth during that assembly or [former ISU president Jakobi Haskell] perfectly handling Zoom-bombers,” Contee said, referring to events from assemblies during last year’s distance learning period.

While this unprecedented start of school doesn’t replicate being at Tregaron, the first day proved to be a relief for some. Sophomore Catie Boylan was nervous about distance learning, but the assembly offered a calming beginning to the 2020-21 year.

“[The assembly] felt ‘normal,’ I guess,” she said. “Seeing all the familiar faces made me feel less isolated.”

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