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COVID Again Alters Plans For High Schoolers

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is again altering plans for seniors at Jamestown High School. P-J file photo

For Jamestown High School students, spring is usually filled with fun and exciting events, but due to COIVD-19 many activities will again likely be altered.

“To this point we’ve had no transmission of COVID in our own building, which is great,” said Principal Dana Williams. “But it does mean that some of the things we like to do, some of the activities that go along with senior year, have had to be put on the backburner, and instead (we have to) try and look at some different options.”

One of the events that has been put on the backburner is the annual senior trip. Given the hazard of traveling in the current pandemic, Williams said there are no real plans to put together a trip for this year’s seniors.

“We’ve kind of lost our ability to do any large-scale field trips or anything like that because we are very committed to the safety protocols and keeping our students and staff safe,” Williams said.

The principal said school officials are looking at other options that will allow seniors to get together.

“Our thinking shifts towards, ‘Can we do something a little bit different?’ If we can do different things with small groups we might be able to have fun events in a different way,” Williams said.

The senior prom is another event that will be altered as a result of the ongoing pandemic, but Jamestown High School officials are determined to have some sort of prom-like event to give seniors some semblance of normalcy.

“That’s one of the things where we’re intent on having some sort of event where the kids can participate and get dressed up,” Williams said. “Whether we’re going to have a dinner or some other type of event that they can come to and participate in, we’ll do everything possible to give the kids a ‘normal’ senior year experience they can have.”

The thing that is largely associated with prom is dancing, and Williams is concerned about whether dancing at prom adheres to the COVID guidance that JHS follows.

“One of the issues that we have that makes being a larger district more difficult during this pandemic is just the large number of kids the school has compared to the capacity we can have at any event whether it’s indoor or outdoor,” Williams said.

Compared with other local schools districts that have smaller graduating classes, Jamestown High School has over 300 seniors graduating this year. Whereas schools with graduating classes that are substantially smaller than Jamestown’s may be able put on events with their whole class and still follow capacity restrictions and guidelines, Jamestown High School is simply not granted that privilege.

Williams and other Jamestown High School officials are looking at ways in which they can gauge interest in proposed event ideas that can direct them towards events that both follow guidelines and cater to what students want to do.

“Whether it’s having students sign up for different activities to see who actually wants to do them, then maybe that’ll be able to lead us into a possible decision. But beyond anything we have to make sure it’s available to everybody. We can’t exclude kids by any means,” Williams said.

As well as students being concerned about the idea of having to miss out on or experience these senior traditions in an unconventional way, Williams said parents are also worried.

“It’s upsetting because the kids obviously want to participate in them,” Williams said, “but the parents are also very concerned that their kids have that experience, too. It’s very frustrating and stressful to the parents that they think of their kids finishing up their senior year where they might not have the opportunity to have these events, and it bothers us.”

The biggest event that will probably undergo changes due to COVID is graduation. Last year, the Jamestown High School graduation ceremony took place at Strider Field since Chautauqua Institution was not an option as a result of the pandemic.

“That’s where we would always like to have our graduation since it’s a great environment, and we haven’t closed the door on that option yet,” Williams said. “We’re also thinking that we might have to do something at an outdoor venue like we did last year at Strider Field. What we’d like to do is find out what our options can be, what kind of restrictions each option has, and then find out what students and parents want in order to give them some sort of voice.”

When it comes to spring events this year, it’s a thin line between catering to the students wants and needs but also having events that follow the guidelines and keep families and staff safe and healthy.

“It’s all about adaptation because there’s no way around (the pandemic),” Williams said. “I wish this wasn’t the way it was, but our goal is to come up with many different ideas and give the kids as many things to have fun with as humanly possible.”

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