Starting the School Year in Quarantine

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Avery says, “One night I decided to take my to-go bag from the dining hall and eat in front of the chapel. 
This is something I would never do usually, but being able to eat outside on our beautiful campus has already 
become a positive outcome of this year.”

Starting a new school year, especially at Mercersburg, is always full of excitement. The first few days are filled with room decorating, running and hugging friends you haven’t seen all summer, meeting new people, and enjoying the nice weather before classes start. This year, however, was a little different. Instead of everything I mentioned before, the first week of being on campus was filled with masks, social distancing, and bathroom schedules.

Upon arriving on campus, everyone got a COVID-19 test and immediately went into quarantine. My first meal was delivered to my door in an aluminum tray, and I was given a “goodie bag” of utensils, condiments, and everything else I would need for each meal in the next week. I was told I was not allowed to go outside, into anyone else’s room, or to any other floor. I could only leave my room for the bathroom. As an introvert, this did not sound ideal, but was also not a daunting thought to me—at first.

A typical day in quarantine started at 8 a.m. with a temperature check from a faculty member and breakfast. I would groggily get up, record my temperature, get my breakfast (again in an aluminum tray or brown bag), and go back to sleep. Then, I would stay in my room until it was time for lunch. Once again, a faculty member delivered my meal, asked how I was, and that was really the only interaction I would have with anyone else until the evening. (Since I am living in a single room this year, I didn’t have a roommate to talk to throughout the day.) Then, around 5 p.m. we would all mask up and have required outdoor “recess.” Now this did not mean a free-for-all to hang out with friends, but instead we were assigned an area outside near the dorm and strictly told to only interact with the people on our floor—six feet apart, of course. Then, we would go back inside, get dinner delivered, and stay in our rooms for the night, again only leaving to use the bathroom or to take advantage of the 15-minute time slot for showering and brushing teeth. So, if you’ve ever experienced a normal school year at Mercersburg, you would know this was very unusual.

Before coming to campus, I envisioned this week-long period of quarantine to be relaxing, easy, and even fun. That was not the case, even for someone who thrives on alone time and can easily isolate without feeling trapped. Ironically, not being able to do much with your day is exhausting. I quickly learned that being told you can’t leave your room and choosing to not leave your room are two very different things. It was hard; I'm not going to lie.

Quarantine lasted between six to eight days, depending on what day you arrived on campus, and I can wholeheartedly say that I am so happy it is over. For the people who know me personally, they could tell you that is saying a lot. Since in-person classes have started, and we can now pick up our lunches and eat outside, I have felt more energetic throughout the day and have actually appreciated going to class instead of watching my teacher on a blurry screen.

Even with the intense restrictions we have, I am so thankful to be back on campus and see people again, even if it is six feet apart. In such an unusual time, I can only be hopeful for what this school year has to offer and what it throws at the Mercersburg community.

Editor's note: Avery Poffenberger ’21 is one of two student interns in Mercersburg’s Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications for the fall 2020. She is from Annapolis, MD, and her mother, Chase Vokrot Poffenberger ’84, is an alum.