By: Avery Ahlquist
Much to the dismay of many students, homecoming has been cancelled at Glenelg High School and many other high schools around the country due to COVID-19. Some schools have carried on with their homecoming events while adhering to safety protocols, while others have postponed the event or cancelled it entirely. Disappointed teenagers have begun to plan their own parties, completely defeating the purpose of cancelling the school sanctioned event.
COVID-19 is a pandemic that has changed everyone's way of life; it has taken away vacations, events, the ability to socialize and to see people smile. Now, the virus has taken over homecoming. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has encouraged people to not attend or host large events in order to stop the spread of the virus. Going forward with a high school dance seems out of the question. In order to stop the spread of the virus, the CDC has urged everyone to avoid close contact and to focus on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are frequently used. It is impossible to host a dance where surfaces are constantly being touched and students would actually stand six feet apart, which is why many schools have cancelled the event.
Opinions are varied on whether or not the cancellation was a good idea; however, many people believe it is in the best interest of the community. Quite a few events that many people have been looking forward to have been cancelled. Since Howard County decided that the school year would begin virtually, students have missed out on meeting new people, going to football games, joining clubs, and participating in concerts or theater. While the school has tried to make up for the lack of activities by postponing fall and winter sports and allowing students to host clubs via google meet, it is not the same as being there in person.
Some students have begun to reclaim their high school experiences and celebrate the dance themselves. Emma Schultz, a sophomore at Glenelg High school, said that she and a group of friends have decided to get together and take homecoming pictures at one of their homes. Getting dressed up and taking pictures is half of the fun for most people that attend homecoming and the excitement has not stopped just because the actual dance was cancelled. Although Schultz believes that having homecoming at school would be a safety concern, Schultz also said that, “Students who want to, should have a party in smaller groups since they only get four homecomings and they shouldn’t have to miss out on one.” The risk of the virus spreading is smaller when there are less people that may have it and less people to spread it to.
Many parents are also upset by the decision to cancel homecoming, some have even decided to host their own dance so their children can still experience the joys of high school. However, other parents prioritized their children’s health over their need to participate in cliché high school events. Kristi Ahlquist, a parent of a Glenelg high schooler said, “It was a good decision to postpone homecoming because there is no way to hold it safely with COVID-19 still an issue. If the dance did happen, It would be very difficult for parents to make the decision for their child to stay home if most of their friends were going.” If high schools were still hosting the dance then parents would have to decide which is more important, their child's safety or their child feeling included. There would be consequences for either decision that the parent would have to face, their kids would be upset or they would be in danger.
Glenelg High School is one of the many schools that has decided to postpone the event and cancel the usual homecoming activities. Kim Stull, a special education instructional assistant in the Maryland school system said that high school students may be capable of following directions and social distancing in school if they were to go back. However, a dance is a whole different environment, Stull said, “It would be hard to social distance at social gatherings because it would be difficult to stay six feet apart from so many people, especially if you're dancing with your friends.” Students who have gone back to school have been sent home once one student tested positive for the virus due to the fact that they would have come in contact with most people in the school. If a student who went to the dance did get the virus, everyone present would be expected to quarantine.
The most credible opinions are those of health professionals. Medical assistant, Lauren Poquette, brought up a good point when she said, “Granted how many young individuals are asymptomatic, a large gathering like homecoming would be a bad idea.” What people do not realize is that not all people who get COVID-19 know they have it, because they do not show any symptoms. Even if student temperatures were checked outside the doors and they did not show any signs of illness, they could be carrying the virus. Students also have a high chance of getting and giving the virus because many are not social distancing. Tons of teenagers are still hanging out with their friends and going out without wearing masks or staying six feet apart.
There are many alternatives to still having a fun celebration while sticking to CDC guidelines. After making the decision to cancel the dance, many schools across the country have decided to host parades, while limiting the amount of people that can be on a float or car. Other schools have decided to do things virtually even filming football games and homecoming courts. Most schools, like Glenelg, have decided to postpone the dance until it is safe to once again participate in big events.
Students have been dreaming of going to high school events and dances while they went through elementary and middle school, and now that COVID-19 has hit their dreams are being shattered. Going to a high school dance is a huge milestone for many American teenagers and many may not get to experience it. All we can do now is cross our fingers and hope that all of the postponed dances will not get cancelled too.