Connections Before Corona: What was Lost at Grace?

Media taken from the Grace Gazette Image Archives.

Grace included a high school division since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Things before and after the pandemic seem to have changed around the school. For seniors who experienced Grace both ways, there are some clear differences between their experience and that of the ninth graders who are new to the Grace community — this is all they have ever known. 

Both upper and lower grades seem to agree that COVID changed things around Grace. 

James S. ‘23 notices how connections across grades differ greatly when comparing pre versus post-pandemic: “We had two years where we didn’t have a normal school year and that kind of destroyed it.” 

James’s point is further emphasized by the disappearance of Cross-Grade Connection or CGC advisories from 2020 to 2023. Pre-pandemic, students would meet with a group that included students in grades 9-12 as a way to connect people who did not have classes together. This practice was eliminated when school went remote and never made a reappearance during the hybrid year. Connections across grades were eliminated during the pandemic to further prevent the spread, and CGC spaces disappeared. 

This connection was not only lost in official academic spaces though. James pointed out how “when we were freshman, we knew who the seniors were.” This no longer seems to be the case, with ninth and 12th graders having little reason or opportunity to come together.  

Another senior echoed James’s thoughts about connecting in-person after the remote year. Paul C. ‘23 said that he thinks freshmen have an advantage since they “get the full four years to meet and build connections and get comfortable with how things work” as opposed to “getting adjusted to everything and having it all change.” 

This post-COVID class will have the opportunity to build deeper relationships within their grade without the separation of computer screens and masks. This is an advantage that the ninth graders themselves seem to appreciate. 

Sami D. ‘26 feels like she “would not have been able to form bonds as closely. It would’ve been more isolating” as a freshman at a new school not getting to be in-person. 

Learning within the classroom has changed too. Paul mentioned that it was hard “to remember stuff from sophomore year” when school was hybrid. 

Ami K. ‘26 described the improvement, saying that “now that we’re in-person, we can do more.” 

However, James seemed to think that academic rigor was not the problem with remote learning: “I don’t think I learned less online. I really liked remote learning. It was almost as if I suddenly had an extra hour in the day to do work, so I had more time to focus on my assignments. I think that allowed me to progress at a similar rate as if I was in class.” 

The academics were not the problem in James’ hybrid experience. The culture of the school still changed for him though, right down to the bonding experience that is eating together with friends. During hybrid learning, students ate lunch as an advisory instead of altogether in the cafeteria. James mentioned missing this opportunity to connect with staff and students that he didn’t always get to see. 

“I love the lunch staff and I love lunch,” he admitted. 

Mia K. ‘24 agreed with these thoughts about connection, both within and across grades: “COVID stunted all grades from bonding, but really impacted incoming freshmen the most. Incoming freshmen are able to create stronger bonds as a grade not only with themselves, but with students in other grades.” 

Things have definitely changed at school since the pandemic. Connecting with peers both in and out of the classroom, across and within grades, was an important aspect of school that students missed in the last few years. The connections made outside of the classroom are being built in ways that they could not during the remote and hybrid years, but building those relationships still doesn’t seem as easy as it was in 2019 — the days before the COVID age.