Virtual spirit week, prom details planned as Summit County schools extend classroom closure through end of school year
Seniors still hope for creative in-person graduation celebration
DILLON — Amid the novel coronavirus shutdown, the end of the school year became clearer for Summit County students on Friday. While the district canceled classroom instruction and other in-person group activities through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, details for this coming week’s virtual prom and spirit week for high schoolers were announced.
Described by the district as a “dismissal,” the cancellation of in-person learning and activities means students and teachers will continue to engage in the remote virtual instruction they’ve been undertaking since mid-March. In a news release, district officials said they have been closely collaborating with the county’s public health department regarding how to move forward with the school year amid the current coronavirus pandemic.
“There are many questions that need to be answered as we navigate the weeks ahead, including the status of end-of-year events, retrieving personal items from schools, preparing buildings for summer and construction plans,” district Superintendent Kerry Buhler wrote in the statement. “We are currently working on answering these, and other questions, and we will send updates as plans are finalized.”
As part of the district’s decision, all Summit school buildings will remain closed to in-person instruction and all in-person events, athletics and activities will be canceled. In addition, playgrounds and athletic fields will remain closed for social distancing practices in an attempt to prevent further spread of the virus, according to the statement.
For Summit High School seniors like PK Vincze and Logan Simson, the announcement was saddening, though not unexpected considering the wave of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a total bummer that everything has been cancelled,” Vincze said. “But we, as a track and field team, we were lucky to have one competition (in March), one final day to run. Other teams didn’t get that.”
Simson, a senior and the spokeswoman for the high school’s student government, said while the official announcement was a bummer as she and other classmates still had their hopes up for maybe one or two weeks of traditional school, they also understand the health concerns behind the cancellation.
“At the same time, it’s reassuring to know, to get this over with,” Simson said. “It’s healthy for the next steps in our lives. Summer is coming up and also college. It wasn’t as big of a deal because we all kind of knew it was coming. But it’s definitely the end of a chapter. It’s interesting because throughout your entire childhood you watch things like ‘High School Musical,’ and that’s the one constant you had in life — four years of high school and at the end you have a graduation. It’s odd we are skipping that step a little bit. It’s not that we don’t have a graduation, we don’t have a commencement. And if that’s going to keep people safe, I’m all in.”
On Friday district spokeswoman Mikki Grebetz also announced the changes in plans for this week’s spirit week and prom at the high school. To practice social-distancing measures, the school will host a virtual prom on Saturday, April 25 from 7-8 p.m. The virtual prom will be a YouTube broadcast where a DJ will play a one-hour set and prom king, queen and court will be announced to students watching the broadcast.
In an attempt to make this year’s atypical prom and spirit week special, the district is partnering with the Family & Intercultural Resource Center to “invite the entire Summit County community” to join the virtual prom and virtual spirit week.
From Monday, April 20 through Friday, April 24, the district is asking students to dress-up and celebrate at home to celebrate five daily themes: Quarantine Day (Monday), Crazy Day (Tuesday), Summit County Day (Wednesday), Disney Day (Thursday) and Roaring 20s Day (Friday).
Using the hashtag #SummitProm2020, the district hopes students and members of the community share their daily outfits on social media, such as incorporating quarantine-related items on Monday, finding something to ski, bike or hike while wearing classic mountain-community clothes on Wednesday and wearing items like flapper dresses on Friday. Friday’s theme is one Vincze and other students are especially looking forward to, as Roaring 20s was the original theme for prom.
The district is also asking any local businesses interested in getting involved in the Prom celebrations to complete a form at: forms.gle/UTzxs596EaRDf7URA.
Seniors said they think most students on Saturday will watch the prom broadcast with their families. Simson herself didn’t buy a prom dress and won’t wear one. Outside of a few couples meeting up to watch the broadcast together — maybe even while going on a hike together — she thinks most students will watch from home.
Simson said seniors and teachers did consider a senior-class Zoom-like video conference call for prom, but it was ultimately deemed not ideal due to the difficulties of having so many people on a call at one time and potentially speaking over each other. She said many students and friend groups will likely video conference each other before, during and after the broadcast.
For graduation, Simson and other students have been brainstorming ideas and will meet with school administrations about them next week. She said students have thought of different things to honor seniors, such as standing 6-feet apart in graduation gear on Main Street and having teachers and families drive by, to families riding in Breckenridge Ski Resort’s gondola (if and when it opens), receiving diplomas and taking pictures when walking out of the cabins.
Simson also said she and fellow seniors Hunter Stimson and Christina Koetteritz helped create the @summit_hs_seniors Instagram page where seniors can post a senior picture, quote and after-high-school plans.
“I’m not sure if anything will happen,” Simson said, “but the point is we don’t want to go down silently with a virtual celebration. We’d like to do something unique cause it’s been a unique year. I think it’s the general consensus of students that we want to try to have some sort of in-person graduation, with social-distancing rules. It’s all unknown right now. But we definitely don’t just want to give up.”
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As the Summit School District prepares for all online instruction, adults are focusing their attention on the health and well-being of the students.