Above: Students conclude their school week by exiting the 85th Street doors, but not before "scanning out" at ID readers in the 85th Street foyer.
At approximately 9:26 a.m. on the sunny morning of June 8, Joel Clyne '19 quickly hustled through the Regis Tunnel with a slight look of panic on his face. Scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. sharp, he was racing to his History final exam, on the last day of the 2015-2016 academic year. Moments after he entered, the exterior Tunnel doors were locked and—unbeknownst to him—Joel etched his name in Regis history as the final student to enter through the Tunnel on a school day.
Beginning this academic year, students have a slightly shorter morning walk to Regis from the 86th Street subway. The doorway on 85th Street that leads into the auditorium foyer—the northeast entrance into the school—is now designated as the main student entrance and exit. While the Tunnel will still be functional for the occasional delivery or fire drill, it has been relieved of its duty as the exclusive daily entrance for students.
While the 103-year-old tradition of entering through the Tunnel is now retired, a new, modern-day tradition has begun. The new student entrance is equipped with state-of-the-art ID scanners that are part of a new electronic attendance system. The system adds improved oversight to the comings and goings of the student body.
While the Tunnel was considered for the new system, it presented too many logistical and technical restraints, all of which were resolved by using the 85th Street entrance.
(Pictured: Joel Clyne '19 exits Regis via the 85th Street doors.)
Kyle Mullins '05, Dean of Students, says the news system provides an attendance time stamp for those in the building from the time they arrive to the time they depart. This record complements traditional attendance through morning and afternoon advisement. It also serves as the exclusive sign-in on Tuesdays for senior students arriving mid-day after their morning Christian Service assignments.
Mullins notes that the new system allows him to reassure a parent that his or her son has arrived safely, not just by citing the attendance record but looking up the exact time the student entered the building.
"It is certainly a boon for the school community to be able to muster more quickly and efficiently during a fire drill, but the ability to put a family's mind at ease has far and away been the best result of this change," said Mullins.
"I like entering through the 85th Street entrance better than the tunnel, and I think most students would agree," said Clyne, now a sophomore, when asked about the new tradition. "The Tunnel always smelled really bad, and we're already used to the new system by now."
The Tunnel scent is a memory which alumni tend to reminisce about with a smile, and one highlighted in a video produced during the Regis centennial celebration. Colin Jost '00, co-anchor of SNL's Weekend Update, was one among the alumni interviewed for that video. When describing how he responded to a friend overwhelmed by the beauty of the Regis 84th Street entrance, he quipped, "actually, we went around to the other side through a garbage chute. The most humble way to enter a high school is the way the garbage exits it."
According to Fr. Anthony Andreassi, CO, Regis High School's archivist, students did in fact enter Regis through those impressive 84th Street doors—then known as the Faculty entrance—on the very first school day on September 14, 1914. In his book, Teach Me to Be Generous: The First Century of Regis High School in New York City, Andreassi notes that, "On September 22, the tunnel entrance on 85th Street, which was then referred to as the 'arcade', was completed, and from that point on no student was to use the front door."
Pictured: An archived photo of a student reading morning announcements posted in the Tunnel.)
Andreassi, who is also the Director of the Christian Service Program and a member of the History Department, noted that the two-tiered Auditorium—then a three-story, mini opera house—was not ready until shortly before Christmas 1914, most likely rendering the 85th Street doors adjacent to the space as a less-than-convenient alternative entrance for students. Even after its completion, the size, design, and use of the auditorium at that time most likely made the 85th Street entrance feel a bit disconnected from the heart of the school.
Other factors and traditions most likely played a role in the original choice for the Tunnel to serve as the student entrance, though admittedly they are more speculative than fact. For one, it avoided areas where student access was restricted, including the faculty hallway (which overlooks the lower gym) and the main staircase, which was known as the senior staircase. It is also unclear what restrictions, if any, may have prevented a student from walking through the cafeteria or the lower gym (then the only gym), making the entrance at 85th Street a bit harder to navigate.
The Tunnel also made for easy access to the Chapel, with a door that connects the two spaces. According to Andreassi, it would not have been uncommon for a student to stop in for a morning prayer or morning Mass before the start of the school day, and the Tunnel door avoided the access issues presented by the faculty hallway and senior staircase.
Lastly, the Tunnel presented a perfect location for a bulletin board to advertise morning announcements. That tradition, too, continued for close to a century, until the fall of 2012 when announcements went digital and began arriving daily in student and faculty email accounts.
Interestingly, this year's transition to the new student entrance takes place during a time when 1010 Park Avenue—Regis's neighbors to the east—are in the midst of developing a high-rise residential complex. That major undertaking has resulted in a makeshift "tunnel" built with scaffolding and stretching from the corner of 85th and Park to the 85th Street student entrance. The scaffolding is expected to remain until the fall of 2017.
So, for at least one more academic year, students will continue to experience a tunnel walk as they approach the interior of the historic Regis High School building.
A walk, one hopes, that now features a less memorable odor.
A 1951 yearbook photograph of students reading the daily announcements posted in the Tunnel.
A 1995 yearbook photograph of students entering the Tunnel in the early morning.
Navigating through various items stored along the way, students entered Regis through the Tunnel for one final time on the morning of June 8, 2016.