Schools in New York State closed nearly two months ago in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, one Rochester city school welcomed students back inside the building, if just for a few minutes.

The bell at East High School doesn’t quite mean what it used to. There are no lines in the cafeteria, and no rush to get to class. For two months, the building has been largely empty.

“If you had asked me the probability of something like this happening eight weeks ago,” Principal Marlene Blocker said. “I would have probably chuckled and said absolutely not.”

Blocker, a longtime educator and administrator who’s been at East High for five years, usually greets her students with a hug. She misses that. And she misses them.

This week she’s inviting them back, to pick up items left behind when schools abruptly closed due to the pandemic.

Junior Deziree Garrick came by for her scheduled visit Monday morning. She misses school. It’s weird - seeing the place for the first time in nearly two months, and seeing her locker, likely for the last time this year.

“It’s bittersweet," Garrick said who learned she'd made the varsity softball team just before schools were closed. “It’s kind of crazy because everyone was getting ready for spring sports, prom, graduation. We kind of weren’t ready for it.”

Nobody was. Not as learning shifted to online courses, and not as virtually everything was canceled.  

“It’s been very challenging,” Blocker said, “and just really a time for deep reflection.”

“You really have to take it day by day,” Garrick said. “No one could imagine what we’re going through right now.”

Blocker says opening school so students could clean out their lockers was probably more for her benefit than theirs.

“Personally, I was really excited to see them come through the door again,” she said.

Blocker says she has no idea what school will look like when it finally reopens.  

Meanwhile, Garrick looks forward to her senior year and a return to normal— whatever ‘normal’ looks like.

“It’s really sad,” she said. “But it’s for the best.”