One Year Ago Today: The Day That Everything Changed 

Students embraced and said their goodbyes on March 12, 2020 as school closed during the coronavirus pandemic. (File photo)

One year ago today, students were hurried into the auditorium after dinner for a hastily called school meeting that would change their lives

Earlier that day, the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. There were only approximately 700 cases in the United States at the time, but public health experts were predicting the virus would spread exponentially in the coming weeks and months. Colleges and universities everywhere were sending students home, the NBA shut down that day, and there were widespread concerns that air travel would soon be suspended, which would have left dozens of international students stranded in Lake Placid. At that school meeting, Assistant Head of School Mr. John Spear told students that the school was sending them home and closing campus.   

In an email to the community sent while students were in the meeting, Head of School Mr. Mike Maher wrote, “I have consulted with Northwood School trustees and school leaders, as well as experts in public health, and colleagues at other boarding and college institutions. I have concluded, after careful analysis, that Northwood School will cease all on-campus programming and transition all instruction online as of today, March 11, 2020. Tomorrow we will prepare students for online learning and assist them with their travel arrangements. Student departures may begin as early as 2:00 pm.” 

It was the first time since World War II that school was shut down during the school year, and the students’ mood in the room ranged from celebration to shockA day earlier, student-athletes were disappointed when all athletic travel was canceled, effectively ending the Junior Hockey Team’s state championship run and canceling the soccer team’s trip to Las Vegas and the most important showcase of the season 

Northwood shared the news of the closure on social media on March 12, 2020.

The school hoped to re-open at the end of the school year, and Maher concluded his email on an optimistic note: We plan to resume on-campus instruction and other programming on Monday, April 27, which will leave four weeks for classes, AP exams, and other year-end activities, including commencement and LEAP. Of course, resuming on-campus programming at that time depends on the status of the coronavirus. We will monitor the situation closely and communicate regularly with everyone in the Northwood community.” Of course, school remained closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year with graduation canceled.  

Ella Fesette ‘22 was a sophomore at the time and recalled that day. A bunch of us were just hanging out in the living room and we heard a teacher walk by who mentioned something about leaving campus, and then that night we had a meeting about going home. I was so upset to leave because I had a feeling we weren’t coming back, and I was going to miss all my friends and especially springtime at NorthwoodAlso, not being able to say goodbye to the seniors I wouldn’t see again.”  

Senior at the time Madison Novotny ‘20 said, I was in the basement of Berg when I heard the news. It all happened so quickly. I was stressed.”  

Jazzy Valenzuela ‘21 was a junior on that day and recalled, “When we found out that we had to get sent home I was in the living room and then we were called into the auditorium for a meeting to talk about it. I was so confused and felt anxious because I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t realize a year later we’d still have corona, so I guess in the moment I was just expecting to go home for only two weeks.”  

Getting sent home was a shock to all the students. A lot of emotions were triggered from being stressed and anxious to being sad that the year with friends had to be cut short so unexpectedly. It’s safe to say that it was for sure a year they will never forget, no matter how badly some would like to.  


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