(Photo Credit: Maddie Glaum/Achona Online/Photoshop)
After months of online-learning amid the threat of COVID-19, many seniors were excited to return to school to finish out their high school experience in person. Amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, the class of 2021 was enticed to an in-person school year by the chance to exercise their senior privileges: not having to wait in the long lunch line, being in the spotlight during the high school orientation, holding a class-wide senior sleepover, and accessing the senior lounge. However, recent school-wide COVID procedures have led to the nullification of most senior privileges with the exception of one–– the senior lounge.
The senior lounge has been a long-revered feature of Academy life for many years. With its busiest hours during study hall and lunch, the lounge is a coveted, exclusive retreat for seniors alone. However, the implementation of school COVID-19 procedures have made the premiere of the new lounge bittersweet for the class of 2021.
Making its debut with the culmination of the high school renovations in August, the new senior lounge is on the recently renovated second floor. It is a large room with a multitude of high chairs, each accompanied by a high table intended to accommodate only one or two students each. Other commodities include two coffee makers, two microwaves, a fridge, and two vending machines that accept credit cards and Apple Pay.
Compared to previous years, the new lounge is much different in atmosphere. Formerly, the lounge had been a spacious room which featured chairs and desks, couches, microwaves, coffee-makers, and vending machines. Seniors would nap on the couches during study hall, sit together at round tables to eat lunch with their friends, and could seek out isolated desks to work independently during free periods.
However the implementation of COVID procedures have made many of the traditional lounge activities impossible. There are only high chairs and high tables, no tables to eat lunch together with friends, and no couches, which has many seniors disappointed.
“It’s just not what we expected it to be. We were told it was going to be the largest senior lounge and the best senior lounge yet,” said Grace Cronen (‘21).
Alongside the shift in atmosphere, other COVID procedures have made seniors frustrated. One is the lunch schedule; this year, only two homerooms are allowed in the lounge for lunch. The homerooms are arbitrated by a schedule posted on the door of the lounge, and the two homerooms do not rotate, which is a source of frustration for many seniors.
“I hardly see my friends anyways, and now I can’t even eat lunch with them,” said Cronen.
Another new procedure is the lack of privacy in the new lounge. Unlike previous years where the lounge was strictly seniors-only, the new lounge is frequented by teachers who pop in and out at random, to the dismay of many seniors.
“Teachers are always coming and going, and it’s really distracting. I’ve even been kicked out the lounge during my study hall so that the teachers can sit in there,” says Cronen.
However, the frequent visitation is not without reason. In order to maintain safety in the high school, the teachers must help to enforce the new COVID procedures.
“We have to peek into the lounge to make sure the girls are distanced appropriately and are wearing their masks. We are just checking in to ensure everyone is following the safety protocols, and if they are not, then they can no longer be in there,” said Science Department Chair Carson Dobrin.
In order to maintain the in-person school experience, Academy is extremely adamant about following COVID procedures by whatever means possible. Although the strict regulations placed on the senior lounge have seniors disappointed, Academy administration insists they are not a punishment, but a precaution.
“All roads lead to COVID, and that is our situation with the senior lounge. There is no safe way to have the entire senior class in the lounge area at the same time. We have restricted use of the lounge for safety reasons, and we will lift these restrictions when we are told by medical professionals that it is safe to do so. We know the lounge is not the same atmosphere as this class was expecting, but it is our circumstances right now, and we need to be flexible. As soon as we can make it more of the lounge they are used to, we will,” said Assistant Principal Erin Krukar.
Despite the bittersweet experience of the new lounge, it is important to note that the regulations are neither without reason, nor permanent. If students wish for the return of the original lounge experience, it is imperative that they follow the COVID procedures which have been imposed thus far — if not just for the return of the lounge, then for the safety of all students and teachers at Academy.