The marquis of the closed Regal Hunt Valley movie theater as it appeared in April 2020, from a pandemic photo series by Jack Weinberg, ’21 (Jack Weinberg)
The marquis of the closed Regal Hunt Valley movie theater as it appeared in April 2020, from a pandemic photo series by Jack Weinberg, ’21

Jack Weinberg

Scenes from Quarantine

Friends students share memories from the year they made history

December 15, 2020

Before covid came

Before Covid, Friends School was in almost a tranquil haze as we marched on to Spring Break. Spring sports had started, and the return of warm days marked the start of a new season. But despite the hope and promise, a virus we now know as Corona loomed above our sunny skies. I could go out and have fun with my friends, go shopping, and see my little cousins then. I could go to Bed, Bath and Body Works and not even look at the sanitizer, because I knew my family had a bottle at home, and that was enough.   – Jordan Brown, 11th grade

I remember a mask not being mandatory. I remember being able to walk the halls of school without keeping six feet between me and other people. I remember being able to go to my friends’ houses and give them a hug. I remember being able to gather as an entire Upper School in one room. So many things I thought were perfectly normal, until it all got taken away.   – Cate van den Beemt, 11th grade

I remember seeing people in the grocery store wearing masks and gloves. I recall saying to my mom: “These people are ridiculous; this virus is probably just similar to the flu.” My mom works in the medical field, and she didn’t seem too alarmed yet, so I wasn’t alarmed either.   – Kayla Kurtz, 12th grade

Of course everyone knew about Corona in China, but we weren’t too worried, we were just having a good time. We would have real wrestling practices, not walk around in a mask. Life was chill.   – Zakiy Gasparovic, 12th grade

Back then, whenever I would talk about corona with family or friends, we would always talk about how we felt bad for China and everyone who lived there. I also remember hearing concerns of a virus spreading rapidly in Wuhan. When I heard about it on the news I wouldn’t pay too much attention, because I thought it didn’t really affect us. These are my first and earliest memories of what would come to be a defining period of all of our lives.   – Julia Barry, 12th grade

“There’s a growing number of confirmed cases in China daily!” one of my friends said at lunch on a cloudy day in February, getting us updated from CNN news and social media posts about Covid-19. All of us were extremely worried about the situations back in our hometowns, turning a relaxing and enjoyable lunchtime into a moment filled with solemnity and anxiety. Sitting in a place 7,500 miles from China, where people weren’t yet bothered by the pandemic, we felt uneasy and restless, scanning through the data on new cases each day in China.    – Rain Ruan, 11th grade

I vividly remember sitting in my history class weeks before school shut down. We were all sitting around and laughing, and some people were showing memes about the coronavirus that we all thought were kind of funny because none of us knew how real it was. It seemed so distant from us, I never even thought it would affect our lives. When we were laughing, Mr. Henschen walked in and said: “You guys won’t be laughing when we have online school in a few months.” We all thought he was joking, or just being dramatic.   – Charlotte Martin, 12th grade

I specifically remember being in English class and looking at a world map of how many cases there were, and hearing about how a few cases popped up in the US. I started to become more and more worried when I realized how fast the positive results were growing exponentially.   – Natalie Barber, 11th grade

A week before March 14th, I remember walking to the dining hall with a friend. At that moment, the cases in China and Italy were increasing rapidly. “Do you think it’s China’s fault for bringing the virus to the United States?” I asked him. “I believe it is their fault, and they should have been more careful and warned the rest of the world.”  My friend responded: “You think so? I think this virus is inevitable.”   – Krish Sharma, 11th grade

The day school closed

Lily Beckett

Sidewalk graffiti in the time of COVID, part of a pandemic series by Friends photojournalism students.

The day school closed

Our English class was supposed to go on a field trip to get tea for lunch together, but Mr. McManus called everyone to an emergency Collection to explain what was going on. His explanation didn’t feel real. Afterward, our class gathered in the Middle School parking lot, debating whether or not we could still go and make it back in time for M-block. The consensus was no, but we decided we’d just go the next day, or at the latest, on the first day back from Spring Break.   – Charlotte Martin, 12th grade

After buying a poster board for the upcoming ECP fair, I walked into an ECP meeting for worship. Mr. Carlin was talking to someone. Then, he had us go outside instead of working on our posters. There was an eerie feeling. We knew there was a chance that school would be cancelled the next day, and we were excited that we’d get an extended Spring Break. But I was worried about having to stay out for a long time because of sports. We had a really good shot at winning the championship, and I was scared the season would be postponed and playoffs would be cancelled. I thought we would end up going back to school at the end of April, but that didn’t happen. Now, every time I go on campus, I think about how my poster is still sitting in Mr. Carlin’s office, blank.   – Sophie Rosenberg, 12th grade

I remember the last thing I was doing before they closed school. Everyone was in the library. It was the end of the day, and the bell had almost rung. I remember everyone was excited for Spring Break, and everyone was trying to figure out if we were going to be off of school that Friday too. Then it happened. Mr. McManus sent out an email to USAnnouncments saying we would be off of school on Friday, and the whole entire library started cheering and clapping.   – Zach Buchalter, 12th grade

I was in the library with my friends talking about if we were going to have school the next day and when we would come back. Then the news came to everyone’s email and it was the loudest I ever heard the library.   – Chase George, 12th grade

Everyone burst into yelling and screaming, and was going wild with happiness. One kid even started beating his chest. We were all happy to get off of school. I think now we kind of regret that day.   – Julian Marchetti, 12th grade

The moment it was announced, I was in Chemistry for extra help. I remember cheers and screaming coming from the hallway. When I found out why, I was genuinely scared. I had no idea how online school would work, and the fact that I barely understood math and chemistry in person, let alone on a buggy computer screen, frightened me.   – Jordan Brown, 11th grade

I was sitting outside the auditorium with some people when we got the email. We all started cheering and went to the playground to relax before going home. I invited my friends over to my house to get ice cream and watch TV. We were all planning how we thought the rest of the school year would be once we went back. We thought it would be over in two weeks.  – Julia Henslee, 11th grade

I remember grabbing my backpack and walking outside right as the email came out. There was yelling, laughing, hugging, nervousness, excitement. A whole range of emotions. Different grade levels were reacting in different ways. My sister, who was a Senior, was nervous for what was going to happen to her Senior year. However, we didn’t think it would get bad. At the time, all it was was an extra week of Spring Break, then we would be back in school. Or so we thought.   – Cate van den Beemt, 11th grade

“School’s canceled?” I said to someone in the Quad. “Yeah,” they answered. I could not believe it, so I opened my phone and I saw a notification that said school is canceled until April 2. “Let’s go!” I screamed. The first person I tried to find was Finn Peartree. I saw him walk out of the Science Math Building, and told him school was canceled. We celebrated together with other people like we were in a Ski Mask concert. Little did we know that we won’t be able to see each other for a long time.   – Krish Sharma, 11th grade

In Junior Hall with my friends that day, I was in full denial, sitting next to my boyfriend, watching TikToks together. As I held up my phone, the message lit up my screen: “We are off until April.” I read it in disbelief. Some people were excited, but everyone was mostly silent. As reality set in, we began saying our goodbyes. I made my way around my friends, hugging them and making plans for Spring Break that would eventually fall through. We cherished those last moments the best we could.   – Sophia Walper, 12th grade

Life & learning in lockdown

Quill staff

A still from the Chamber Choir’s Zoom performance of “What the World Needs Now is Love,” in May 2020

Life & learning in lockdown

In the beginning of quarantine a few friends who live in my neighborhood would hang out at the local school because we were bored. As the days went on, our numbers started to dwindle, and our parents got more worried and told us we couldn’t hang out in big groups anymore. So, we started to form little bubbles and invite one or two people in. I decided to learn to skateboard, so I texted a friend and he taught me. It became my quarantine activity. It gave me the chance to leave my house, and kind of kept me sane.   – Sophie Rosenberg, 12th grade

When lockdown started, my family was prepared. Maybe that’s the perk of having a germaphobe mom. Before Covid was even an issue, we had masks, disinfectant wipes, extra hand sanitizer, and anything you would need. My family was strict about quarantine. I couldn’t see friends without masks and 10 feet apart; we never once went into a store; and we had an infinite amount of masks.   – Julia Henslee, 11th grade

I remember people calling it “Covid-cation,” and seeing it as a good thing almost. I did the same, actually. There was no way to tell if the virus was serious then or not, but as a teenage boy, I thought not. The time I really got nervous and scared was when our president declared a national emergency. That’s when it really hit.   – Harry Deller, 12th grade

I could no longer see my friends, because their parents were very cautious. I couldn’t go anywhere. It started to feel like all I was able to do was eat, sleep, or study.   – Kourtney Neale, 11th grade

Once my family realized Covid was in the USA, we stayed in the house for about a month, besides getting food for our home and gas for our cars and lawnmowers. I remember FaceTiming with my friends because I was so bored in the house. After that month, I began to play basketball outside with my friends and my AAU teammates because the gyms were not open. School was the worst part of quarantine, because I had a lot more work than I did in in-person school. Having to join Zoom calls early in the morning from my bed was annoying, because of the bright light in my face just after I’d woken up.   – Chase George, 12th grade

I remember being on Zoom in a breakout room for English class. This particular morning, I decided to make a large breakfast (pancakes, sausage, kale, toast). My phone was on a counter kinda far from me, and my hands were full. I remember pouring the mix onto the pan and hearing it sizzle. The pancakes smelled good, a vanilla and cinnamon smell, kinda like a cozy winter morning in the living room, lol. I listened to the conversation and maybe contributed a “yeah” or “cool,” but honestly, I wasn’t fully present. I remember feeling so tired of this whole pandemic.   – Ray Strand, 12th grade

I remember getting multiple painful announcements, one after the other. First they cancelled the musical, which broke my heart. Then they cancelled prom, which I had already bought my dress for. Then they cancelled school for the rest of the year, and postponed graduation. My friends lost their senior year, and I never got my final day with them.   – Julia Henslee, 11th grade

April rolled along into May, and the pandemic was only getting worse. My brother was studying abroad in Barcelona, where the virus had progressed much farther than in the US, and signs of a mandatory lockdown were imminent. My mother was frantically trying to get him home, and we were facing the very real possibility of him being trapped in Spain for some time. On the evening of the announcement of the US/EU travel ban, we were able to smuggle him on a midnight bus to France, where he took a redeye flight to Chicago and drove back to Baltimore.   – Julia Barry, 12th grade

The first time I saw my friends after school closed was on April 11th for Sophie R’s birthday drive by. It was about 10 of us, standing in her front yard, talking from a distance for maybe half an hour. It almost felt like a normal day with friends – until one of her neighbors called the police on us. We were all shocked to see a police officer at what could barely even be classified as a party, with her parents standing right there with us. It was a sad reminder of the new normal that we were living in.   – Maria Angelos, 12th grade

In the spring I got pretty sick and my doctors thought I had Covid. I was feverish for days, and barely got out of bed for a week. The only time I was able to be in a room with my family was every day when I had a FaceTime session with my doctor, so I could explain my symptoms and monitor my breathing. Eventually I got better and was able to get out of self quarantine and into regular family quarantine. Then spring turned into summer, and summer went by in what felt like a week.   – Jordan Brown, 11th grade

A summer like no other

Working this summer was like nothing I have ever experienced. I was working at a restaurant that usually holds at least 500 people a day and has tables all across the place. On my first day I walked in, and everything was different. All the tables were six feet apart, and I had to wipe down every inch of the tables and chairs before anyone could sit down. Masks were mandatory. I also saw how different people fought the virus, whether they were wearing full-body protective gear, or sometimes walking in with no mask and being asked to leave.   – Brandon Sklar, 11th grade

A distinct memory from this summer is a local Black Lives Matter protest I attended. I can’t honestly say I was a frequent member of the peaceful protests, but I went when I could. This one, in June, was a short demonstration along Roland Avenue and Northern Parkway, at which a large group of socially distanced people, some with signs, all got down on one knee at the exact same time and held there for nine minutes, to pay tribute and ask for justice for George Floyd and all other victims of police brutality. The moment of unity was chilling, but knowing that the protesters spread out over about a mile was inspiring.   – Parker Hollendoner, 12th grade

It was 3 am and I was stuck in my friend’s house. I’d woken up at 2:30 in the morning to come. She was going away to college, and I was there to drop her off and say goodbye. Her dad looked at me, this girl who he had never met, sitting on his couch, and went into a handshake. I panicked: “What is he doing? What am I supposed to do? Is this safe?” I ended up shaking his hand – I didn’t want to seem rude – but the motion was no longer familiar. My arm felt like one of those inflatable tube men in front of a car dealership. The moment lasted less than a minute, but it’s the only hand I’ve shaken in the past six months.   – Sophie Bauman, 12th grade

I went to a Black Lives Matter protest downtown in June. It was a peaceful protest organized by students and young adults, and hundreds of people showed up. I was nervous to go because of coronavirus, but I feel this is such an important issue that I have to take that risk to support it. It was a really sunny day. I went with friends and ended up seeing a lot of people I knew. The people who spoke before the march were inspiring. One woman’s husband was killed by police. One girl was younger than me, and it was impressive to see her speaking confidently to such a huge crowd. We started walking past the Orioles’ stadium, and I looked behind me and saw a vast crowd, like a whole horizon of signs and masks marching together.   – Grace Gamper, 12th grade

Back to (Zoom) school, and on to hybrid

Friends School photographer Laura Black

In November 2020, students joined Christine Saudek’s ninth grade English class both in-person and over Zoom, under one of the tents Friends purchased to make hybrid learning possible.

Back to (Zoom) school, and on to hybrid

So basically we’ve been on Spring Break for seven months now. I guess everything has been the same for so long, it’s all a blur to me. I’m sitting at home, doing school work. Bored out of my mind. Sometimes the quarantine has even been too much even for me. Yes, that’s right, the quarantine was too much for me. At first it was fine; it was fine for longer than it was for most people, probably. But now it’s all taking a toll.   – Matthew Mizrachi, 12th grade

After reading how school would operate for in-person hybrid learning, I was not excited. PPPs, no frees, and six feet distance from everyone? It sounded awful. But I wanted any piece of school and human interaction I could get, so I made my way to school on the first day of hybrid. Turns out, it was fun! At M-block that day, I played soccer with about five friends in front of the middle school for an hour. It was a beautiful day and I remember being so glad I was back at school with my friends. Since then, in-person school days have gotten less and less enjoyable as the weather has been cloudy and gross, but I’m still glad to be back.   – Anna Wallengren, 11th grade

My first day of hybrid school, I walked up to the Upper School office and was met with a 30-person line. From the back I could hear Mr. Ball shouting: “Make sure you have signed the safety form and have it ready when you come inside.” Eventually I made it inside, and I was met with a device I had never seen before. It was explained to me that this camera could take your temperature. This was and brand new concept to me, and I was very impressed.   – Zach Buchalter, 12th grade

The first class I had in person was Journalism with Ms. Wiltenburg. It had gone terribly. I had forgotten everything at home, the Zoom she was speaking over was glitchy, and I couldn’t really hear a thing. It was awkward at first, all of us craning to hear. Then Sophie scolded me about how I hadn’t done the homework for my next class, and Sophia laughed, and I really didn’t care. I don’t like being six feet apart from people I love dearly, but it was so nice to see them in person that I smiled, sucked it up, and went back to trying to figure out what Ms. Wiltenburg was saying.   – Sophie Bauman, 12th grade

In the first week of hybrid History class, we went out in front of the Middle School and got into a circle, and Mr. Carlin asked us what pet we would want if we could have any animal. When it got to the last person, he was holding a praying mantis in his hand, and he said, “I would want a praying mantis,” and everyone laughed. It’s moments like these that we almost never had during online learning.   – Sam Wu, 9th grade

One of my first classes back was Math, and it was a complete mess. Mr. Bonn wasn’t there in person, and the tent was too loud to hear anything he was saying unless we were huddled together by the speaker, going against the social distancing rules. We understood almost nothing that whole class, but it was so nice to be struggling with my friends again.   – Maria Angelos, 12th grade

It is hard to feel a part of hybrid class when you are on Zoom. I have noticed that in the physical classroom, it looks like more of a community and togetherness, rather than the kids on Zoom, where we are always in a breakout room and nobody talks. It is also hard as far hearing the teacher in the tent, and when the wifi connection freezes. In one of my classes, we got kicked out of the Zoom completely, and the teacher really did not notice and continued with the lesson. By the time we were able to connect back, class was over.   – Kyriana Mason, 9th grade

November: Going virtual again

Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

November: Going virtual again

Wednesday, November 13, was only the third day I went on campus and had classes in person. I was looking forward to this new form of studying, in this strange and burdensome junior year. All of that excitement and joy disappeared the moment I got the email from Mr. Micciche. Sitting in my car, watching the heavy rain bucketing down, it felt like someone was empathizing with me.   – Rain Ruan, 11th grade

I had just gotten into my car, put it in drive, and started to leave campus. My phone dinged, and I glanced and saw that Mr. Micciche had sent an email. I immediately knew it was going to break my heart. I skimmed through the email and saw “School will move to an entirely remote program beginning on Monday, November 16.” I felt my chest get tight, and I immediately FaceTimed my mom. She answered, looked at my face, and said: “I am so sorry, K. This sucks.” I teared up, but knew I wasn’t ready to really cry about it. We ended the call, and I got home, threw my backpack down, fell into my mom’s arms, and cried.   – Kayla Kurtz, 12th grade

The last day on campus for a while was really sad. It’s been super difficult being new on campus and making connections. In a way, I won’t miss it. I felt like I didn’t belong there, and couldn’t shake my paranoia that people were looking at me with nasty stares. At the same time, I didn’t get the chance to say bye to anyone I really wanted to. Covid hasn’t been difficult for me, but now it feels like I’m alone, trapped. Getting to go to campus was a way for me to watch all the people living out their lives. Now I’ll only get to see their digital counterparts as they text or pretend to be awake. I wasn’t quite there. But I felt like a part of something for a moment.   – Alice Miller, 11th grade

Hybrid awkwardness & community

For me, the hardest part of hybrid school is not feeling connected to my friends. It is so hard to see someone and not be able to run up and talk to them, or give them a hug if I missed them. My 1-year-ago Snapchat memories have been popping up on my phone, and it’s hard to watch the whole school at the pep rally, videos of dancing at hoco, and just videos of me and my friends. I understand how necessary all the precautions are. It’s just sad to look back and see how different everything is.   – Natalie Barber, 11th grade

When I got back to school, I found that not everyone was taking the new guidelines to heart. Of course, we’ve all seen photos of our peers’ unfortunate parties and maskless get-togethers, but seeing people blatantly ignoring safety procedures on campus hit different. I saw collections of people from all grades (mostly underclassmen, but still), clustering together, doing whatever they could to sidestep rules that had been put in place for their safety. Teachers are stretched so thin lately that they didn’t even notice, but those of us who haven’t seen our closest friends for months, myself included, were and are disgusted.   – Parker Hollendoner, 12th Grade

Hybrid is a lot more, but I’ve really enjoyed it. The first day I went in, I had to wake up earlier, but I still felt like I had much more energy than usual because of the excitement I had to finally be in person. Packing a lunch is something I have to get used to, and something I almost forgot my first day. The schedule is nice, with a lot of stress-free time built in. It also makes me much more motivated to do homework when I get back, because I’m not at home all day.   – Johan Shattuck, 11th grade

Coming back to school is a bittersweet feeling. I am happy that Friends has the resources to allow their students to come to campus, but there are still many things that cannot go back to the way they were. Being able to walk down the hallway and saying hi to friends we don’t see outside of school is something I used to take for granted. Now that I can’t hug friends I haven’t seen in a while, or eat lunch with someone not in my advisory, I miss real school more than I did during online school. I guess it feels like a tease to have us come back but not be able to do anything that made school enjoyable.   – Sophia Kessenich, 12th grade

All of the classrooms and tents are pretty big, and there are not that many people in my classes, so I can see everyone. I have two classes where the teacher is virtual, and in those it feels like we are all experiencing the same thing. When the screen freezes, we all sigh. When the teacher talks too quietly, we all lean forward in our seats. There were a few technological challenges in my Java class, where the teacher is virtual, and everyone was worried we would miss important information. When everything was sorted out, I could feel the relief ripple through the room.   – Kaya Banerjee, 9th grade

Soccer practice has been pretty similar in covid, but we have to wear masks while we play. I walk down to the field around 3:30, take my sweatshirt off, and take my pants off (since we don’t have a place to change anymore, I wear my soccer shorts under my pants). I put my cleats on, and change my mask to one meant for athletics. As we wait for the coach, my teammates and I joke about random topics. We were really disappointed when we found out that we were only going to have one game. I miss the trips to different schools, where the bus would be loud and rowdy, bumping hype music. I miss banter in the locker room before home games. I miss playing – even though I sat on the bench most of the time. This game coming up feels meaningless, since there isn’t anything at stake. Now we just play so we can feel like we had one last game.   – Alex Scharff, 12th grade

I have not been to school as a part of hybrid learning. It is hard to feel like part of the class when I’m on Zoom and almost everyone else is at school, mostly because it’s hard to hear. But I feel like the teachers are trying very hard, and are always trying to find ways to make me feel included.   – Warren Scott, 9th grade

Peering through the side door of the Meetinghouse, I witnessed Mr. Ratner’s Environmental Literature Class in action. In the middle of the room, which has benches facing inwards on all sides, was a television screen and Owl camera, with white-and-black text dotted over the screen. A distance-learner, projected onto the television screen through Zoom, was talking to the in-person students, who were socially distanced throughout three sides of the meeting house, all facing inward towards her.   – Sam Handwerk, 11th grade

December and beyond

Imagine being a hugger and not being able to hug! I used to love being out with friends and being a social butterfly. So much has changed. For me, hybrid learning has been very weird. In some of my classes I’m the only person who decided to remain virtual. Not being able to physically be at school while classes are happening is very challenging. I love seeing everyone excited being back, but sometimes it feels as though I may be a little left out.   – Zuri Wells, 12th grade

I feel like we are all sort of numb to these crazy changes happening in all of our lives.   – Grace Gamper, 12th grade

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