Students, Community Prep for Full Return to Campus

Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Acting Head of School Quentin McDowell P '25 greets families.

After a year of in-person and online learning in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Mercersburg Academy is set to begin its 129th academic year fully in person with Opening Convocation on Sunday, September 5, and the first day of the fall term on Monday, September 6. Student leaders (including dormitory prefects and Peer Group and Mentor Leadership Program leaders) arrived on campus Friday, August 27, and the entire student body moved in on Tuesday, August 31.

“There is definitely something palpable in the air at Mercersburg Academy,” says Acting Head of School Quentin McDowell P ’25. “After months and months of existing as a fragmented campus, we are all here, together in preparation for the new year. The sounds of our campus coming back to life are invigorating. The lawn mowers humming in the background, offices being restocked and classrooms being rearranged, new faculty and staff walking around the quad, and hearing our beautiful carillon bells chiming. This flurry of activity signals that we are ready. We are ready to take on this year, despite the persistent challenges of COVID-19. After all, we know there is simply nothing that compares to the rich experience of learning and living together at a school like Mercersburg Academy.”

Opening Convocation took place September 5 in the Hale Field House. As a COVID-19 precaution, the event moved from its traditional location inside the Irvine Memorial Chapel, masks were required, and in-person attendance was limited to students, faculty, and staff. Longtime faculty member Jim Malone P ’01, ’03 gave the Convocation address. 

Watch a replay of Convocation; read full details about Opening Convocation 2021–2022

Throughout their first week on campus, students participated in activities such as Inbound, the school’s orientation program. Typically an activity for new students, Inbound this year focuses on the entire student body.  

Students participate in Inbound activities.

“After a year and a half of interrupted learning and adjusted scheduling, we are so excited to welcome back almost all of our community members,” says Chris Howes, assistant head of school for student life and culture. “Because we have not had a full year together in such a long time, we felt this year, more than ever, it was important for the whole community to return together and focus our time on resetting our values and sharing what makes us, us. As always, the week is filled with activities, performance group activity (PGA) practices, and most importantly time together to reinforce our cultural touchstones like family-style meals, our cherished traditions, and the little things that make us unique as a community.”

Other events of the week include PGAs such as soccer or theatre and cultural clinics to learn about Mercersburg’s rich traditions. Students will get a sneak peek of their schedule and meet with their teachers this Friday, September 3, as they participate in an abbreviated class day.     

Mercersburg’s 2021–2022 student body is composed of 445 students, including residents of 29 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 36 countries. The Class of 2022 (the Academy’s senior class) numbers 140, with 123 upper middlers (11th graders), 100 lower middlers (10th graders), and 83 juniors (9th graders).

The school also welcomes 18 new faculty members this year. Read more about those new faces.

For more information about the school’s opening amid the continuing pandemic, visit the Mercersburg’s Return to School web page.