OPHS‌ ‌hits‌ ‌the‌ ‌2‌ ‌year‌ ‌anniversary‌ ‌since‌ ‌COVID-19‌ ‌shutdown‌

Friday, the 13: a day that many remember

Two years ago, on Friday, March 13, Oak Park High School shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Former principal Kevin Buchanan initially informed the school that there would be a two-week quarantine period. 

“I remember that fateful Friday — March 13. It was pouring down rain. It was just a very eerie day and an eerie feeling,” English teacher Leslie Miller said. “Little did we know that [it would] usher in 18 months [of a] distance learning period.” 

Oak Park has dealt with lockdowns, masks, new COVID-19 variants and vaccinations. In addition, the school had been grappling with the debate of distance versus in-person learning. 

“Being back on campus is highly engaging, more fun and preferable,” Miller said. “It’s been wonderful to be back.” 

Since then, the community has been making strides forward through the pandemic. Two years after shutting down, OPHS took another step: March 14, the first day of school without indoor mandated masks.

“It is spooky how the high school shut down on Friday, the 13 of March — like an unlucky day,” freshman Prajna Adiga said. “It is even spookier and ironic that the day after [the anniversary], we came to school without masks on.”

Masks were already optional for use outdoors, but have now shifted to optional use indoors as well. Classrooms are seeing a mixed result of some students wearing masks and others not. 

“Eyes are the window to the soul. So I have been looking at all [my students’] beautiful eyes for 8 months. And now the masks are coming off for some people. And it is a weird feeling,” Miller said. “But it is also a wonderful feeling because now we get to see the smiles that go with the beautiful eyes.”