After a year of masks, social distancing, and hours of Zoom classes, students and teachers are letting out a collective sigh of relief as they head into the summer.
“I’m really just so excited for a break, and I need a fresh start to everything,” Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) soon-to-be sophomore Isabella Osborn told The Times as she headed out to the buses on the last day of school.
After a strenuous and uncertain year in 2020–21, particularly for incoming freshmen whose introductory experience to the high school consisted of online classes, stringent health restrictions, and random COVID tests, Isabella said she is excited to have a different, “more normal” year next year.
“It was tough — I completely lost my motivation to do anything this past year, so going into next year, I’m so excited to not have to deal with things like Zoom, and I can’t wait to be able to see my friends and spend time with them without having to wear masks,” Isabella said.
After enjoying a group hug, some of Isabella’s friends chimed in on how they’re feeling, having wrapped up the final day of the school year.
“I feel tired from school, and am really looking forward to the summer so I can go to the beach and spend time with all of my friends,” said Sofia Balsas, another outgoing freshman.
Kayla Dow, also going into 10th grade next year, said she feels a sense of relief leaving high school in anticipation of the summer and the next school year. “It feels like a bunch of stress just got lifted off my shoulders, and I’m so happy to finally be done and be able to have fun this summer,” Kayla said.
Fellow soon-to-be-10th-grader Faith Fecitt said she feels sad to be leaving her teachers she has grown close with over the past year, but is comforted to know that she won’t have to write any more essays (at least until next school session).
Freshman Sydney Rydzewski gave a shout-out to her teachers for helping her through the year. “The teachers were amazing — I am really going to miss them,” Sydney said.
Outgoing sophomore Maksim Pachico said he is excited to go fishing this summer, and hopes that next school year is less stressful and more relaxed.
Another outgoing sophomore, Christian Flanders, said he is excited to have free time during the summer, go to the beach, and meet some new summer friends.
After saying goodbye and congratulations to a group of students, MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy told The Times she is looking forward to a well-deserved summer for all students, teachers, and school staff.
“This wild year felt like a wild two years, that’s really what it was. We didn’t really have a summer this past year, so I think it was pretty much one year bleeding into the next,” Dingledy laughed. “Certainly, everyone needs a good rest. It was a lot of pushing through and managing transitions. But we are all more flexible and prepared after having been through that.”
As students rushed out the door to their buses and cars, anticipating beach days and evenings spent with close friends, Dingledy said she felt an overwhelming sense of positivity on the final day of school.
“The sun is shining, and people are excited to have next year feel like a normal school year, although we obviously don’t want to rush the summer,” Dingledy said. “I just want to say thank you to the students, the staff, and everyone in the school community for putting in their all, and their ability to remain flexible and positive throughout this really difficult year.”
Summer’s in the air
At the Tisbury School, the final bell on the 2020–21 bell rang at 12 noon. Students excitedly talked, yelled, and bounced as they walked out the doors, guided by their teachers. Some teachers blew bubbles as the students came out the door. Jessica Sanseverino, Tisbury music teacher, played a red ukulele while the students waited for the signal to leave, singing of a happy summer and the time students spent at Tisbury School.
It was a fun day for the students. “The kids were all riled up and full of energy,” said Amy Custer, third grade teacher. “We had a couple times outside for extra recess and popsicles, so it was mostly a fun day.”
Most of the teachers and Tisbury Principal John Custer stood on the sidewalk on the West William Street side of the school and waved goodbye to the students as their parents drove them home.
“It’s an exciting time,” Principal Custer said. “It’s bittersweet to send kids off, but that’s how it is, working in education.”
Bittersweet may be the right word to describe the 2020–21 school year. The school went into remote learning for a part of the year, and then transitioned into hybrid learning, due to COVID. Custer said he thinks the students had an easier time transitioning to the different learning environment than the adults did. Administrators had to figure out the rules, and teachers needed to make new lesson plans for the virtual environment. Not being able to be with students in-person to provide support, instead of through a computer screen, was difficult for the teachers.
“It’s been a time like no other,” said Joanie Creato, guidance counselor for students in fifth through eighth grade.
As the school year comes to a close, there is an anticipation for the future and a reflection of what was accomplished throughout the year.
“We did have some tears and some kids who didn’t want to move up to fourth grade,” said Amy Custer. “A little bit of a mixed bag of emotions, but mostly excitement.”
Through difficult times, the school community came together to make sure the students could have a fruitful time at Tisbury School. “The staff is grateful to all of the families and students for everything they did to support us this year,” said Amy D’Andrea, first grade teacher. “We’re really proud.”