Back to School Perspectives

Fallon Dern looks back on her first day back on campus since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was also her first time attending school at the upper campus.

Fallon+Dern+23+takes+a+selfie+with+the+other+sophomores+in+her+cohort+in+the+Chalmers+classroom+they+were+assigned+to.

Fallon Dern

Fallon Dern ’23 takes a selfie with the other sophomores in her cohort in the Chalmers classroom they were assigned to.

Fallon Dern

I often overthink the little things only to ignore the big issues in front of me. Returning to school meant I would ponder my outfit for hours and completely forget to download the Trace App or take my Student Covid Survey. However, as I stood in the upper school parking lot clutching my fur coat, tapping my feet and praying my heinous WiFi could recover just once, I had a chance to see how the whole operation was running. In lieu of an image, just imagine an eerily quiet and more complicated Disneyland entrance.

Students checked in twice with their green pass and iHW app, then received a KN95 face mask, waited in a line to get their temperatures checked, shared the green pass again and made sure to stand on their designated stickers. While I was instructed to stand and catch up, other students would show their three signals once more, enter a check-in line for their name, face another line for their designated cohort and then find their classroom. All of these steps required cooperation and patience but felt somewhat normal. As much as it was weird to identify friends by their eyes alone, or by what car they drive now, it was comforting to be with my community again.

Through Peer Support, Asian Students in Action(ASiA), field hockey, on-campus social activities and theater, I’ve been able to come to campus on occasion. Of course, I miss the lower school and its lack of stairs, but I feel as though my grade is defined by the people in it rather than the place we are in. My cohort is also filled with lovely individuals, so I felt excited to see them in real life.

The welcome was weird, to be honest. You can’t hug your friends, they’re way, way taller than you remembered and you might shudder a bit when people start closing in to have a conversation. Right now, I’m writing from Chalmers 304, making eye contact with Aerin Duke ’23, whose Chinese teacher instructed her to stand up and face to the right to learn directions. Outside the open window, tables and chairs are provided for kids who want to take courses there. In my Spanish Zoom breakout room, I can see at least two students taking advantage of that offering, though I have no idea where they are on campus right now. I can only hear the same speeding cars or overhead planes echoing through their computers.

Despite the new environment and protocol, I applaud the school for handling the situation with this much care. Sure, I had to coordinate my mask layers with my undershirts, and yes, the angle of the sun is burning my pant leg as I type. However, any semblance of normalcy is a spark of hope, and I would much rather be safe than sorry.