The ball still drops. Fireworks still light the sky. But this year is different. As we ring in the new year, most likely through boxes on a screen, we reminisce about the blissful celebrations of last year when we were full of hope for the start of a new decade. 

But 2020 did not go according to expectations. 

We experienced a global pandemic disrupting every aspect of our lives while racial violence ignited protests on our streets. We faced unprecedented challenges and were forced to adapt to a new, virtual way of life. Yet through it all, we stayed grounded among the chaos and pushed not to return to normal but to move forward. Launch Editor Emily Yao captures this theme in her perspective “A year to remember,” and urges readers to confront the reality of the current issues as we move into the new year. 

Managing Editors Allison Chang and Katherine Cheng gathered statistics to create vibrant infographics that capture this year’s defining events, providing insightful data on topics from coronavirus to students’ political stances. “2020 by the numbers” sums up a year that many are eager to leave behind, while other stories look to what’s to come. 

While uncertainty clouds the approaching year, we look forward to having a new administration, especially with the first female, first Black and first South Asian Vice President of the United States. In the feature story “Kamala Harris,” Social Media Manager Akhil Joondeph examines the significance of this moment for the South Asian community. 

This new executive leadership brings hope for a brighter future. Staff writer Sebastian Bonnard urges President-elect Joe Biden to prioritize education throughout and beyond the pandemic in his perspective “Dear Mr. President-elect.” Bonnard calls on Biden to learn from France’s COVID-19 response in securing the education of millions of students.

The issue of education in a pandemic is at the forefront of our minds as the new year was also supposed to bring hybrid learning options to Palo Alto High School students. However, in their feature story staff writers Aanya Kumar and Sebastian Bonnard now examine the return to uncertainty as the plan that incited so much dissension within the community was canceled due to Santa Clara County’s placement in the state’s purple COVID-19 tier. Meanwhile, Perspectives Editor Ryan Seto and News Editor Paisley Annes share their respective opinions on the plan in their pro-con perspective piece “Returning to school.” 

No matter what 2021 brings, it is clear that the events that defined 2020 have left their mark. This year has taught us much about what needs to be done, and forced us to confront unexpected challenges and have important conversations about the inequities ingrained in our community and country. We learned to adapt and innovate in order to create a process that would function as efficiently online as it did in person. And while 2020 was a difficult year for us all, we move into 2021 with new experiences, new skills and a new perspective.

On the cover

Palo Alto High School history teacher Caitlin Evans takes down a sign that reads “Welcome Back Students!” from behind the glass window of her classroom. Photo Director Audrey Joachim posed and captured the image shortly after Santa Clara County moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier and the district’s reopening plan fell to pieces. The cancellation brought an end to the contentious debates surrounding a return to campus — but concerns regarding what comes next still hang heavy over the community.

Click here to read the pdf version of the magazine on Issuu

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A year to remember: The chaos of 2020 and what comes next

2020 by the numbers

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Rejected reopening: Community clashes over hybrid plan

Pro-Con: Returning to school