Disappointed but not surprised -Potomac students acknowledge need for online start


Potomac School Instagram (September 2019)

Middle school students pose with the Potomac School Panther on the first day of school in 2018.

Isabel Engel and Ali O'Brien

After months of holding out hope for a sense of normalcy and a return to campus this fall, the announcement by Head of School John Kowalik on August 20 that Potomac will begin the school year in full distance-learning mode left many students disappointed. While this news was disheartening for many students, they also recognize that safety is most important in the midst of a global pandemic.

“I support the school for making the most prudent decision. Just by looking at the news and seeing what is happening with universities across the nation, I think it is probably a smart decision to start school online. I would have loved to go back to campus, but it is most important to keep people safe,” said junior Ben Choi.

Many acknowledge that the virtual start is the most responsible decision, especially for those with at-risk family and friends.

“This is definitely the right decision to make at this point in time. As someone with two immuno-compromised family members, I am definitely more comfortable with the virtual start,” said junior Andrea Villafuerte.

In an email on September 3, Mr. McLane announced that the school’s leadership intended to resume some on-campus class time within a month.

“While we are beginning the 2020-21 school year under our red plan, with full virtual learning, Potomac intends to transition to the orange plan, in which each grade is on campus for one day a week, during the week of September 28, conditions permitting,” wrote Head of Upper School Doug McLane.

Potomac students interviewed by The Current believe that starting in full distance learning mode will allow them to return to campus as soon as safely possible.

“I would rather be safe now, starting fully online, so none of us get sick and we can eventually return to campus,” said senior Maya Sardar.

Junior Michael Sweeney echoed Maya’s sentiment. “Ultimately, the safest decision is the best decision,” he said.

While most Potomac students understand the need for a virtual start, it does not alleviate their longing for a classic fall spent on campus. In any other year, a Potomac back-to-school is filled with kindergarteners and seniors walking hand-in-hand, a classic SAC welcome as freshmen get off the bus, and the excitement of returning back to campus. These time-old traditions are a quintessential part of each September.

“I’ll be honest, I was so upset. I was so looking forward to the first day of our senior year,” said Maya.

As a Potomac lifer, Andrea does not remember a year without the classic opening day assembly.

“Ever since I was five, I have eagerly awaited the opening assembly each year. Seeing the kindergarteners walking with the seniors is such a powerful Potomac tradition that is engrained in all of us. It is going to be so sad not to have that,” Andrea said.

Although Potomac students are disappointed by the virtual start, they acknowledge the need to prioritize safety and remain optimistic.

“I hope there are opportunities to create the Potomac sense of togetherness online,” Ben said.