End-of-year traditions take on new look due to COVID-19


Illustration by Ella Prillaman

Maggie Baumstark and Ella Naugle

It has been 77 days since South shut its doors for what students and staff did not know would be the rest of the 2019/2020 school year. With school closed, long-awaited, end-of-year traditions have been amended or canceled. Although the close of this school year looks unlike any in South’s history, Principal Dr. Lauren Fagel is confident that the South community has become resilient because of it.

Graduation will be taking on a different look this year due to social distancing guidelines. An alternate drive-up graduation ceremony is being planned for June 13 and 14 in which seniors will be able to come to campus during an allotted time slot, walk across an outdoor stage, receive their diploma and have their picture taken in cap and gown, Fagel said.

Senior Kendall Vega said that having traditional graduation cancelled was disheartening for seniors, as their “final hurrah” as an entire class was taken from them. For Vega, graduation was supposed to be the culminating end to high school and a chance to say goodbye to the people she spent four years with.

“I feel like we can all attempt to make the best of the situation,” Vega said. “I think that’s what [South] is doing and I think we should do that, but I’m also not going to pretend that it’s the same.”

Alongside graduation, prom was cancelled as well. Typically in charge of planning prom, Julie Smith, junior class board sponsor ,worked with a number of students and decided against creating a virtual prom. Instead, a senior celebration took place on May 31 and included a live DJ, messages from students, coaches and teachers and other celebrations of seniors’ time at South.

“Students don’t want replacements of actual events; they don’t want to pretend they’re at prom when they’re not at prom,” Smith said. “We [were] trying to find a way to pivot and shift a little bit so that seniors [weren’t] trying to compare or replace the event, but instead create a new experience to put a smile on everybody’s face.”

When prom was cancelled, Senior Aly MacQuarrie understood why it happened, but was disappointed. She hopes seniors will make the best of the situation and she appreciates the administration’s efforts to reco g n i z e seniors. MacQuarrie and her friends held their own prom. “We all parked our cars so that we were facing towards each other, blasted some music, and just had a great time seeing each other’s faces again,” MacQuarrie said.

The annual Honors and Awards Ceremony still took place via a pre-recorded video. Josh Koo, assistant principal of student activities, said that the ceremony included the same awards and scholarships as previous years.

“Although COVID-19 has abruptly ended the last three months of school for our seniors, it is important to recognize the three-plus years of achievements and success they have achieved up until that point,” Koo said.

Final exams were waived for this semester as well, Fagel said. Instead, teachers facilitated summative learning assignments, weighted as normal assignments, that brought closure to the class and promoted engagement.

Emily Ekstrand, social studies teacher, is thankful for the new finals system as she has noticed many students were struggling with e-learning because of pressures at home. While she hopes this will be meaningful, she understands that some students will feel like it is yet another assignment.

“I hope my students can see that I’m trying to give them assignments that connect to our lives and the world around us,” Ekstrand said.

Despite all the cancellations and changes, Smith hopes that in the future it will be seen in a more positive light.

“I think in 10 years, when we look back at [this time], we won’t remember it with such sadness,” Smith said. “We can sort of look forward to the way we’ll look back on this.”