First All-School Gathering in Forum Since 2020 Celebrates Basketball Title

Community members gather in the Forum for Monday meeting on March 7. Photo by Kaiden J. Yu. 

After two years of virtual and hybrid assemblies, high school students and faculty gathered all together on March 7 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic to celebrate the victory of the women’s varsity basketball team in the D.C. State Athletic Association Class A championships.

Assistant Principal for School Life Quinn Killy announced the in-person Monday meeting the previous evening. In the assembly, which lasted about 15 minutes, team members gathered at the bottom of the Forum, where they were congratulated with music and balloons. Students watched a highlight reel of the championship game.

“I thought it was an awful lot of excitement,” jazz and instrumental music teacher teacher Brad Linde said, “in a very short assembly to put us all together right now.”

History teacher Topher Dunne said in an interview he thought the assembly was an important step toward regaining normalcy as restrictions ease, saying it brought back a “hint” of pre-pandemic life.

High School Principal Katie Gibson said in an interview with the Bit that in-person all–high school gatherings will continue as the high school emerges from the pandemic. Two days after the Monday meeting, Head of School Russell Shaw announced that the school’s mask mandate would be lifted beginning on March 14.

Senior Sofia Greenfield, a captain of the women’s varsity basketball team, said in an interview that the meeting showed GDS’ “appreciation for women’s sports.”

Greenfield also said it was exciting for her and her teammates to be celebrated in the first full in-person high school assembly since the pandemic. “That’s even more special,” she said, “especially since even after the big announcement they had cupcakes and free time on the field for people to mingle and have fun.”

History teacher Sue Ikenberry said “it was really like old times to be in the Forum” with the entire school community.

“But it was awfully crowded,” she added. “COVID is all around me—family and friends. I gather a couple of students have had it. So right now I’m kind of in the middle of it. Now we’re not going to have masks and everything. I’m sort of like, ‘Huh?’ It’s odd to me.”

Dunne said he thought GDS’ high vaccination rates and thorough COVID testing helped the school safely hold a fully in-person assembly. 

During the March 7 assembly, science teacher Greg Dallinger, who announces home basketball games, introduced each of the team members by name, jersey number and grade. 

Assistant Athletic Director Pam Stanfield, the team’s head coach, told the high school, “Our goal was to win the banner and we did. We made history.”

Pam Stanfield speaks to the high school, with women’s varsity basketball players standing behind her. Photo by Olivia Brown.

Gibson also addressed the school, congratulating the team on its win. At the end of the short meeting, she encouraged students to go out to the field or get cupcakes in the Internet Cafe.

After two years of assemblies entirely or partly on Zoom, Spanish teacher Yka de Castillo liked seeing the community together in the Forum. “One thing that caught my attention was seeing all the students sitting next to one another talking,” she said. “They were all together—that’s the thing that I love the most.”

The March 7 gathering was junior Noor Ramzy’s first time seeing the entire high school community together, because she is new to GDS this school year. “It was a good opportunity to feel the GDS spirit,” she said, adding that in-person assemblies allow students to “see people you don’t usually see and interact with other grades.”

Last year, during distance and hybrid learning, assemblies were held virtually. Junior Christian Freeman recalled that they were “made so much worse by the medium” because students’ interactions with speakers were limited.

Ikenberry said she thought virtual assemblies were logistically easier and still interesting. But she added that, on assembly Zooms, “I noticed that the students were much less attentive and interested.”

This school year, the high school has had a mix of hybrid assemblies, with the grades split between the Forum and the library, and virtual assemblies watched in advisory groups. The surge of the contagious omicron variant led administrators to pull back from large in-person gatherings in the winter.

“We had started to consider coming back together in an assembly format when omicron hit,” Gibson told the Bit. “That sort of put a damper, as we had to separate again. The fact we are now able to all be together is a huge gift.”

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