BOONE — Watauga High School canceled its homecoming dance originally scheduled for Oct. 2 due to COVID-19 numbers and administrators wanting to prioritize the safety of students.
The decision to not hold the homecoming dance, for the second straight year, was not an easy choice to make.
Administrators and student council members explored many possibilities and alternatives when deciding whether or not to hold the dance. Ultimately Chris Blanton, Watauga High School principal, determined the safest option was to cancel the dance altogether.
“Our board of education has not approved a mask mandate outside, so is it any safer to have a homecoming dance with unmasked people outside then it would be to have one inside with people wearing masks? I don’t think so,” Blanton said.
Blanton said school administrators are trying to find a balancing act between making sacrifices to ensure safety, but to also maintain a level of normalcy for students.
“I know that it is not the smartest thing to have the homecoming dance,” Blanton said. “That’s really what it boils down to.”
Brittany Wood, student council advisor, said the council received a lot of blowback from the cancellation.
“We did however reach out to meet with administration to discuss a few concerns with the consistency of decision making and how we, as representatives of the student body, felt that cancelling the homecoming dance was inconsistent with their decisions to continue other events,” Wood said. “With that being said, we felt that the students deserved a deeper explanation as to why the dance was cancelled.”
Some students felt frustrated with the decision to cancel and saw it as unreasonable.
“I feel like it should not have been canceled, but rather the school should take some extra measures to allow it to happen like having it outside,” said senior John Greene.
While student opinions vary in regard to the cancellation of the dance, many students feel disappointed at another lost high school memory. Other students are understanding of the need to prioritize student safety and education.
“It is a let down, but I think that a lot of people are overreacting,” said freshman Addison Tottherow. “It was probably a good decision.”
Many students had already expected a cancellation, and some were surprised that a homecoming dance was even considered at all.
“I think it is a smart decision on the school’s behalf due to the increase of COVID-19 cases since the start of school,” said junior Sophia Batemen.
Students can look forward to other events hosted by the student council team in place of a traditional homecoming dance.
“We (student council) plan on making spirit week bigger and better, placing more time and energy into powderpuff and king of the court and having the biggest tailgate we’ve ever had,” Wood said.
Even though the dance was canceled due to safety concerns, some students question if football games — which the homecoming dance is all about — are being handled appropriately.
“We can’t have a homecoming dance outside because they can’t mandate masks, but we can have football games where people from different counties and schools come (together) and no one wears masks,” said senior Morgan Healy. “It just seems to me that football games are more unsafe than homecoming, but we still have them.”
Outdoor sports do not require masks or social distancing. If an athlete is exposed to COVID-19 they still have to quarantine.
Last year the Watauga County Board of Education and the North Carolina High School Athletics Association required masks for sporting events for both spectators and athletes, but regulations were loosened this year. Blanton said requiring masks this year would be challenging as faculty would have to police spectators to ensure that the correct procedures were followed at football games.
“They invest so much for our students and Friday nights (that) they shouldn’t have to come (to games),” Blanton said.
While dances are important memories for students to have, Blanton said right now the primary focus is to keep students in school.