On Monday, the irrepressible Mr. Dan Hess ’88, History teacher and music guru, gave us a whole bunch of great songs to welcome us back to the latest version of “the new normal.” From the opening strains of U2’s “Beautiful Day” to the closing notes of “Best Day of My Life” by one-hit wonders American Authors, between classes we were treated to musical numbers that exuded the wonderfully upbeat vibe of the first day of full classrooms since Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Last Thursday the faculty and staff of Saint Ignatius received their second jab of the Pfizer vaccine and, after a long weekend of recovery, walked into a world that we have anticipated for months. Even with the knowledge that we will be spending St. Patrick’s Day in school, there was an aura of joy that permeated the campus. Aided by the exploits of the varsity basketball team under second-year Head Coach Cam Joyce, the feeling was that after so long of a wait there was a growing light at the end of the tunnel.
The introduction of the new in-class schedule, with 70-minute periods, didn’t appear to do anything to dampen the spirits of any teacher or student. In fact, random and unscientific polls revealed that people are actually enjoying our new way of proceeding. Maybe beginning the day at 8:30 and not having any more asynchronous work to do (or to post online) might have helped to bring our community to an early acceptance of the new schedule.
Looking back on the past year I still carry a sense of sadness for what was lost for the Class of 2020. Not only were all of the big events of senior year cancelled or curtailed, but their first year of college was nothing like they had imagined it to be. With a little luck, that will be in the past as well, and when our graduates of both 2020 and 2021 walk onto their respective campuses next August they should be ready for the experience that they have so eagerly awaited.
For the Class of 2021, there is also the renewed sense of a cautious optimism about things like prom and graduation. For the younger classes, there is the feeling of the dawning of a bright future at Saint Ignatius, one where Zoom and masks will become a thing of the past. For the faculty, there is the “new school year” feel brought about by filled – yet spread out – desks and a new approach to how we manage the clock.
For the administrators, there are the beginnings of a well-deserved collective sigh of relief as we take one baby step after another towards normalcy. There is no way that Dr. Anthony Fior ’02 could have ever imagined how bizarre his first year at the helm would be, but today he – especially after our small conflagration a few weeks back – truly understands the phrase “baptism by fire.” His calmness under pressure, his devotion to continuous consultation with doctors, and his desire to do what is best for our students, their families, and all on campus, have been the hallmarks of his time as principal.
And last but not least, for the entire school, the return of an appearance in the basketball Final Four, after 20 long years, is something to revel in, but is also a reminder that the good old days are back. Last March the varsity hockey team was about to play in the Frozen Four when all schools and school events were shut down. Our hope is that the hoopsters can pick up the baton and carry it across the finish line in Dayton. But no matter the outcome this weekend, there will be a feeling that we are making a new beginning right where we left off last March, not just athletically, but as a school community. It truly is a beautiful day.