Online Exclusives

2020: A Year in Review

// A year ago, when the words “Happy New Year” reverberated worldwide, people celebrated the accomplishment of another finished year and cheered for luck and success in 2020. Yet, as the same words prepare to make their rounds again soon, people will instead be celebrating the end of a strange, tragedy-filled year. 

   Below is a timeline of events Blueprint believes shaped 2020 both at Acalanes High School and in the U.S. To maintain a local angle, Blueprint did not include all of the months and major events.

January

   On Jan. 20, the CDC confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S., marking the beginning of a new reality for students made up of Zoom classes, masks, and social distancing. Before the state of Washington reported its first case of COVID-19, many people believed the virus was isolated to the city of Wuhan, China where it originated, and when it did enter the U.S., many did not think the virus would make a large impact. 

   “My initial reaction when I heard COVID-19 was in the US was that it was going to be a short-lived disease that would keep us out of school for maybe a month… I really didn’t think it was too big a deal,” sophomore Sierra Lashinsky said.  

   As the virus spread to the Bay Area, several students realized the severity of COVID-19. 

   “When it hit the U.S. I think I was still a little confused because at that point no one really knew what COVID-19 was but it became more real and scary when it hit California and eventually the Bay Area,” senior Megan Go said. 

Jan. 26: Kobe Bryant’s Death

   On Jan. 26, a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California claimed the lives of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, six family friends, and the helicopter pilot. Bryant’s sudden death saddened not only the National Basketball Association (NBA) community but also many people with an appreciation for the game of basketball. 

   “It was a sad day. He was such an influential player. It’s sad to see someone who represented basketball pass so abruptly,” varsity basketball player and sophomore Theo Stoll said.

   Many female athletes began playing basketball because of Bryant’s work with empowering women.

   “Kobe Bryant was always a big influence [to me] throughout my basketball career. He inspired both me and many other girls to play. His death was very sad news to hear especially in the sense that it was a major loss for the girls basketball community,” varsity basketball player and sophomore Emily Du said.

   Bryant’s work both on and off the court led to his 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction where his legacy is honored.

   “Kobe’s work for the game of basketball will be remembered and he will continue to inspire so many people who love the game,” junior Caroline Crossland said. 

March

March 6: Volume 80 Issue 6 Cover Story: Sexism at Acalanes

   Blueprint’s Volume 80 Issue 6 cover story featured the first in-depth view of sexism at Acalanes, pushing many students to examine the underlying misogyny present in campus culture. 

   The author of the story, former Blueprint Arts Editor Anne Thiselton-Dyer, compared the deep-rooted sexism at Acalanes to water to convey that inequality has become so normalized in society individuals do not see they are submerged. The inspiration for the story stemmed from Thiselton-Dyer’s own encounters with sexism on campus, which she felt some staff and students disregarded. 

   “Me and some people close to me had some personal experiences that I feel like were not taken seriously and not being talked about. I felt like they needed to be,” Thiselton-Dyer said.

   The goal of the story was to bring awareness to unconscious gender biases and microaggressions that contribute to sexism at Acalanes.    

   “I hope people would stop and think about why they don’t see the water or maybe why their perspective is different and how that might contribute to this culture that we don’t always examine,” Thiselton-Dyer said.

March 13: AUHSD Moves to Online Learning in Response to COVID-19

   On March 13, the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) Governing Board closed district schools in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases worldwide. Three days later on March 16, Contra Costa County Health Services officials issued a shelter-in-place order, signaling the start of the ongoing quarantine.

   At first, several students believed the stay at home orders would only last a few weeks.

  “I thought it would end quickly and we would be back in school if not in May then at the start of this school year in August,” junior Michael Kuhner said.

   Due to the mindset that the shelter-in-place order would be short-lived, most students first met quarantine excitedly with the idea that it would be an “extended” spring break. 

   “I thought that [quarantine] was going to be like a small vacation and it would be fun to just sleep in and play video games all day,” sophomore Tyler Worthington said.

   However, as COVID-19 cases increased rapidly, orders to stay at home extended repeatedly and, for some, quarantine quickly shifted from fun to difficult.

   “I think [that] socially and mentally, it was challenging because it’s hard to maintain friendships when you can’t even see them in real life on top of the fact that you can’t even go outside without a mask on or without the worry of getting a virus,” Worthington said.

   Quarantine not only brought forth physical and emotional consequences but economic ones as well. The pandemic impacted many small businesses, especially companies with fewer than 20 employees and those that provided hands-on services. When in-person spending became nearly nonexistent, small businesses often had to reduce employee hours or resort to lay-offs in order to compensate for the lack of business.

   “Without [consumers], quarantine’s probably hit [businesses] very hard because they might not have the money to afford rent or to keep things in stock. The less sales the businesses make [creates] a hole they have to dig out of,” Worthington said. 

   The pandemic also brought attention to the critical role of essential workers. Many health-care workers continue to work long hours to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. 

   “I think this pandemic has shown us how much we are dependent on these essential workers. Not just nurses, but grocery checkers, gas station workers, etc. Because of the pandemic, we have seen how these workers, many of whom are paid minimum wage, are forced to risk their lives every day,” sophomore Sophie Westen said.

   Many students hope that the community takes the shelter-in-place orders more seriously as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

   “I think people should follow shelter in place orders seriously because the virus is still affecting a lot of people and is still a serious threat. Also, the vaccine is just starting to be used in the public and if we take the shelter in place seriously now, it can make the process of getting back to normal life faster,” junior Stella Bobrowsky said.

May

May 8: First Edition of The Azure Released

   On May 8, Blueprint released The Azure, Acalanes’ first literary magazine. Prior to its publishing, Blueprint spent months planning a way to showcase students’ creative talent in both written and visual forms.

   “We were really excited about creating a way for students to share their stories because we felt that there wasn’t really a place to do that,” former The Azure Editor Charlie Keohane said.

   After pitching this vision to Lafayette Partners in Education (LPIE), which hosts Project LPIE, an annual event where Acalanes students compete in 18 categories of project-based learning, Blueprint acquired the funds needed to produce the literary magazine.

   “We had this very interesting element of Project LPIE that we incorporated into [The Azure]. Our timeline was built around Project LPIE because the winners were actually showcased and kind of singled out in [it],” former The Azure Editor and former Print Editor-in-Chief Nelson Rogers said.

   The literary magazine included an array of Acalanes students’ and Project LPIE winners’ creative writing, essays, editorials, and visual work. Accompanying The Azure’s physical copy, Blueprint Online showcased a series of works, such as vocal music, computer programming, acting, and video production.

   The Azure’s physical and online publications were opportunities for students to display their creativity with Acalanes and the greater community.

   “Ultimately, we wanted to share these talents and perceptions with our school… The notion of creating some sort of device for artistic branding to be shared throughout the community was so incredibly exciting,” former The Azure Editor and former Print Editor-in-Chief Charlotte Glass said. 

   However, accomplishing this notion of producing a literary magazine without any former guidelines added a layer of complexity to creating The Azure.

   “In Blueprint, the knowledge is canon. We have that style guide that lays out the rules fairly clearly, but for The Azure, there was none of that. There was no gigantic document telling you exactly what to do or how to lay it out. It was really neat to create that scaffolding by ourselves,” Rogers said.

   Some students felt that assembling the magazine together while quarantining added significance to the finished product.

   “It was very meaningful, especially during the pandemic, when we all had to communicate via Zoom and overcome the unknown, chaotic, frightening notion of a pandemic taking over our lives. We all had to kind of coalescence around this one piece of art that we all felt was so important for us to produce despite the settings being very different and strange,” Glass said.

   Even with the obstacles of creating The Azure, those who helped produce it were proud of the final publication.

   “Getting to hold it at the end was just such a rewarding experience to see that all of our hard work and everyone’s dedication to creating this brand new thing to showcase art all paid off and in a very meaningful and rewarding way,” Rogers said.

May 11: Volume 80 Issue 8 Released Celebrating Larry Freeman

   On May 11, Blueprint released “The Freeman Files”, an issue dedicated to former Acalanes history teacher and former Blueprint advisor Larry Freeman for his final year teaching at Acalanes. The cover summed up people’s experiences with Freeman through a series of interviews conducted on former Blueprint editors, colleagues, and people in close relation to him. 

   “We all talked to every single person that we could think of that had any significant relation to Freeman or was significantly impacted by him. That mainly consisted of former Blueprinters or his former students, former [teacher assistants], teachers, etc. We reached out to them and just asked them about Freeman and their experience with him,” Glass said. 

   In his several decades of teaching at Acalanes, Freeman became a large figure on campus, and his influence touched many people throughout the years. In the issue dedicated to him, Blueprint hoped to capture a piece of this legacy. 

   “‘The Freeman Files’ was so meaningful mainly in that Freeman himself had played such a profound role in shaping Blueprint in all its chaos and beauty. He also just represented a really large character on campus and devoted so much time throughout the years, not only to Blueprint but to Acalanes… We knew that our cover article about him had to live up to all of the work that he had done on campus,” Glass said.

   As a whole, “The Freeman Files” was a parting message to a man who spent years dedicating himself to Blueprint, Acalanes, and his students

   “He has seen Blueprint transform from an eight and a half by 11 sheets of paper folded in half and bound together, to the news magazine that it is today. You can just look back and take a moment to notice the stories, and the reporting and the news work that he led. It’s a remarkable thing,” Rogers said.

   On May 22, two months after the COVlD-19 lockdown began, Blueprint Online published an opinion piece titled “The Coronavirus Lockdown is Un-American”. The writer, Jamie Bishop, argued that the lockdown threatened America’s standing principles by violating our constitutional clauses through examining the shelter-in-place guidelines of several states.

   Bishop’s piece sparked community reaction and garnered a total of 18 comments. While some readers agreed with Bishop, others challenged her perspective and claimed that it promoted fake facts. Nevertheless, the opinion article raised questions on the ethics of the government-issued lockdown.

June

Black Lives Matter Protests Start Locally and Nationally

   Throughout June, many Acalanes students participated in Black Lives Matter protests held in Lafayette and surrounding towns to protest the death of George Floyd and the other unjust killings of Black Americans at the hands of the police. This was the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement in Lafayette and the continuation of a larger conversation about the systemic racism that exists in America. 

   Blueprint Liaison and Arts Editor Ella Alpert attended a Black Lives Matter protest in San Ramon on June 3 and noted its positive environment.

   “My experience [at the protest] was really informative. The speakers were amazing and it was really nice to hear different voices that weren’t just in my direct Lamorinda community,” Alpert said.

   The protests on racial injustices in the U.S. sparked calls for reform in the AUHSD schools’ curriculums, starting with an increased focus on Black history. The need for racial equity in schools strengthened after a video leaked on social media of district students using racial slurs and other derogatory words towards Black Americans on June 4.

   “I think that this video was one of the many catalysts for increased antiracism work in our district. The racist nature of the video was perfectly evident to anyone who watched it and I think people were curious to see what the consequences were going to be,” Blueprint Print Editor-in-Chief Jamie Lattin said. 

   Lattin wrote an article addressing the video, and the short piece received 2,851 views, the most views ever on Blueprint Online.

   “I don’t know whether or not the response to this article was positive or negative. I just knew that it was widely read, which was a sign to me that Blueprint is fulfilling its role as a source of reliable information for our community,” Lattin said.

   In addition to the article about the video, Lattin also wrote a more in-depth piece about the Black Lives Matter protests held in Lafayette and neighboring areas meant to educate people about the racism ingrained in the community. 

   “Just because we consider ourselves a ‘bubble’ doesn’t mean BIPOC individuals don’t face constant micro-aggressions and more serious racism on a daily basis,” Lattin said.

August

   On Aug. 28, renowned actor Chadwick Boseman lost his four-year battle with colon cancer at age 43. Boseman most notably starred in the movies “Black Panther”, “Avengers Endgame”, “42”, “Gods of Egypt”, and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”.

   Boseman’s role as the second Black Marvel superhero helped celebrate Black culture and symbolized the progress being made towards equal representation in the film industry. His continuous advocacy on such topics throughout his hidden battle with cancer touched a large community.

   “He inspired me with his activism and advocacy. As well as this, he persevered through a tough illness and I think that that is something to look up to,” sophomore Georgia Winkles said.

September

California Wildfires

   In early September, a record-breaking heatwave paired with the Diablo and Santa Ana winds sparked major wildfires throughout California, Oregon, and Washington. On Sept. 9, Bay Area residents awoke to a dark orange sky, a product of the thick haze of smoke from the fires.

   For some, the sight of a discolored sky and its implication of growing fires evoked unfamiliar feelings.

   “I remember how unusually dark it looked and then glancing out my bedroom window and how depressed it made me feel, looking at that apocalyptic, dark orange sky,” sophomore Bennett Dodge said.

   Acalanes had to shut down all sports camps due to Contra Costa County’s air quality entering the red zone on the Air Quality Index, causing some student-athletes to feel trapped.

   “I felt almost imprisoned because I wasn’t allowed to go outside, which meant not rowing, running, or playing basketball,” Dodge said.

   The California wildfires burned two million acres within the first week of September, setting a state record for the most area burned in a year. As of Dec. 18, California’s wildfires resulted in 31 deaths and burned 4.2 million acres. 

   “Needless to say, that day and all the other ominous, sports-limiting, smoke-filled days, are ones I wish to never have to experience again,” Dodge said.

   The Governing Board revised its interdistrict transfer policy on Sept. 16 to permit more students outside the AUHSD area to attend district schools. The old policy, which was in effect for the 2019-2020 school year, denied most interdistrict transfers due to budgetary concerns. 

   The new policy allows for greater diversity in the race and socioeconomic status of students.

   “I think this is a positive change and a step forward in terms of racial equity in our community. Hopefully, the increased number of transfers will lead to more diversity within the district,” sophomore Sophie Westen said.

   Online News Editor Shrida Pandey wrote an article covering the updated policy, highlighting both the positives and negatives that interdistrict transfers can bring to the district. 

   “Interdistrict transfers have been a complex issue since the Board stopped accepting most of them into the district. During the writing process for the article I heard a lot of different opinions about why or why not transfer students should be allowed,” Pandey said. 

   The revised policy was a step forward to integrating students of varying backgrounds and income into the district, and many community members were upset the change did not come sooner.

   “I do think it should have been done earlier, but still, allowing interdistrict transfers is a step in the right direction for diversifying the narratives in our school district,” senior Madison Payne said. “Our schools have a lot to offer transfer students and a lot to learn from them. Welcoming students with varying backgrounds into our community could ‘pop’ the sheltered Lafayette bubble.”

Sept. 18: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death

   Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away on Sept. 9 surrounded by her family in her Washington home. She died from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, ending her 11-year long battle with the disease. 

   Ever since she enrolled as one of the nine women in her class at Harvard Law School, Ginsberg dedicated her career towards breaking down the barriers of gender inequality. Her influence on the Supreme Court allowed women to own credit cards and open bank accounts under the Equal Opportunity Credit Act, as well as have the right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade.

   “RBG was very inspiring because she paved the way for women to attend grad school and I really admire her confidence and what she has done for women in terms of rights as well,” Go said.

   Beyond her landmark achievements in the field of law, Ginsberg was the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court, representing a culture and faith frequently underrepresented in the United States. 

   Ginsberg’s legacy lives on in the younger generations she inspired with her dedication to continually improving the lives of women across America.

   “She was such a powerful figure for women around the world and she should not be forgotten,” Means said.

October

Oct. 17: Volume 81 Issue 2 Released Celebrating Race

   Blueprint’s Volume 81 Issue 2 cover story featured a collection of students’ racial encounters and experiences throughout their lifetimes. The writer of the article, Liaison Editor Leda Abkenari, divided the collection into three stages: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

   “What inspired me to write this piece was understanding that race and identity is not a one-stop destination. It really takes years of learning and self-understanding to navigate who you are as a person so that’s why we decided to make the story in an almost poetic tone of how racial identity is a navigation and not just something that can easily happen,” Abkenari said.

   In a time of racial and civil unrest throughout America, “Navigating Racial Consciousness” worked to elevate the voices of students of color at Acalanes.

   “My favorite part about writing this piece was finally giving voices to those who needed them.… [It] was such an important cover for Blueprint to have because it was the untold truth of many individuals that we have on campus and those who have constantly gone underrepresented or unknown from childhood to adulthood,” Abkenari said.

   Abkenari wanted to emphasize that discovering racial identity is not a singular event but rather an ongoing journey. 

   “It was a story that really had no beginning or end; it was a story that wasn’t supposed to have one. Navigating racial identity doesn’t start or stop somewhere. It’s a constant navigation of where we are now and how we’ve been impacted by the systems that have surrounded us,” Abkenari said.

   For many students of color, this piece allowed them to express their personal stories.

   “The story was meaningful to both me and the people around me in that I could finally share in an eloquent matter the harsh reality that comes with the beauty of race,” Abkenari said.

   On Oct. 21, the Governing Board unanimously voted to return to school in a hybrid model after Contra Costa County remains in the red tier for two weeks.

   Students will be split into two different cohorts that come to campus on alternating days to minimize contact. Classes will be 85 minutes with 15 minute passing periods in between. The model allows students to see their classmates and teachers face to face and learn in a more engaging environment.

   “I miss seeing people and making all of the connections that came with seeing a person in person and not over a zoom screen,” Lashinsky said.

   Despite the benefits, both students and teachers worry about the increased risk that in-person learning brings.

   On Nov. 18, the Board revised the hybrid model to include Cohort C, an alternate choice to Cohorts A and B for students who do not want to return to in-person learning. Students in Cohort C will remain in distance learning and follow the schedule of Cohort A or B in a remote format.  

   On Oct. 26, the Senate voted to confirm President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September, Justice Clarence Thomas swore in Barrett at a White House ceremony to become the Supreme Court’s 115th Associate Justice.

   Some students felt the timing of Barrett’s confirmation was unreasonable.

   “Supreme Court justices stay around a long time… I wish they had waited until after the election but I recognize that it was appropriate to rush in the confirmation as they did,” senior Megan Baginski said.

   Barrett’s confirmation gives conservatives a six-justice majority on the nine-member court and ultimately endowed conservatives control over the high court.

   “I think after all three Supreme Court of the United States appointments [made] by Trump, along with previous conservative justices, the Court will solidly lean towards the right for the foreseeable future and stymie the Democratic legislative works,” sophomore Hanniel Dunn said.

   Some students worry about what Barrett’s policies may mean for the future of women’s and the LGBTQ+ community’s rights.

   “The thing that’s most likely to impact me personally is the chipping away at abortion rights. I don’t specifically plan to have an abortion, I don’t think anyone does, but if the need ever arose I’d want to have safe and accessible means,” Baginski said.

November

Nov. 18: Volume 81 Issue 3 Released About the 2020 Election

   Democratic candidate Joe Biden defeated incumbent President Donald Trump in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and will become the 46th President of the United States after his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. 

   While the winner of most elections is usually called on the same day it began, the pandemic added an element of uncertainty due to the increased number of mail-in ballots used to vote. By Tuesday night on Nov. 3, the race was far from being called, with both candidate’s campaigns dependent on key swing states – Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

   Most news outlets called the election on Nov. 7 after Biden received the 20 electoral votes from Pennsylvania to reach a total of 270. Biden also received the most popular votes out of any candidate in history.

   Despite several networks calling the race, President Trump refused to concede, requested recounts, and claimed voter fraud occurred in the majority of the swing states listed above. All courts dismissed his lawsuits, but a recount took place in Georgia and Wisconsin.

   Blueprint News Editor Liam McGlynn, along with eight other writers, covered the 2020 Presidential Election as Blueprint’s Volume 81 Issue 3 cover story. With political tensions in the community and nation running high, it was important to produce an impartial article that conveyed both sides of the election.

   “This was a very tense election, and because of that, I really wanted to create a fact-driven story. By doing so, I hoped to provide a well-balanced story that presented different perspectives about the election,” McGlynn said.

   The instability COVID-19 wrought on schools, jobs, and the greater well-being of every American made many community members look towards a candidate they believed could help the nation recover. 

   “I think the Presidential Election was important because we have gone through a lot of changes and troubles this year and it was essential that we elect a candidate that would help rebuild communities for success after COVID-19,” sophomore Chloe Quintella said.

Credits

Written by Erin Hambidge and Lyanne Wang, Staff Writers

Page layout by Stella Heo and Kayli Harley, Online Editors-in-Chief

Image Credits

January:
Kobe and Gianna Bryant Portrait: Sabrina Agazzi, Copy Editor
Kobe Bryant Cartoon: Ethan Walker, Former Cartoonist

March:
Issue 6 Photos: Zoe Edelman, Graphics Manager
Governing Board Meeting Photo: Nelson Rogers, Former Print Editor-in-Chief
COVID-19 Photos in the Gallery and Health Care Worker Photo: Lue Van Handel, Head Photographer

May:
The Azure Cover Photo: Anne Thiselton-Dyer, Former Arts Editor
Issue 8 Cover Photo: Zoe Edelman and Allie Marcu, Graphics Manager and Former Cartoonist

June:
First Two Images: Ella Alpert, Arts Editor and Liaison Editor
Protest Photos in the Gallery: Arlyne Noguera, Staff Photographer
Colored Protest Photo: Liam McGlynn, News Editor

August:
Chadwick Boseman Portrait: Sabrina Agazzi, Copy Editor

September:
Golden Gate Bridge Photo: Lue Van Handel, Head Photographer
Orange Sky Photo: Emerson Brown, Opinion Editor
RBG Portrait: Sabrina Agazzi, Copy Editor

October:
Issue 2 Photos: Zoe Edelman, Graphics Manager

November:
Issue 3 Cover Photo: Anna Yiannikos, Photo Manager

Categories: Online Exclusives

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