Area students to attend alternative Homecoming event

Sophia Bailly, Editor in chief

Melbourne High School senior Ava Kidd’s phone started ringing with texts following the BPS districtwide cancelation of Homecoming dances, announced Aug. 19.

After hosting an out-of-school prom last spring, students across the district asked Kidd to plan a similar event in place of Homecoming.

“Planning the event was not easy at all,” Kidd said. “But after all the hours and stress of Prom, I already had the plan documented for how to run this type of thing so Homecoming has been running smoothly.”

The event has been scheduled for Friday at the Eau Gallie Civic Center, with ticket costs ranging from $30 to $40 depending on the purchasing time and deadline. Kidd calculated the cost of the Homecoming venue, security, music, food and decorations, in order to determine the ticket cost.

“I advertised the event by sending it to high-schoolers that I know and telling them their high-school friends are also welcome,” Kidd said. “I don’t know too many underclassmen, so I also had my little helper sophomore brother, Mike, [to] get the word out to underclassmen.”

Event planning is a task Kidd said she is well-versed in, having planned annual White Elephant holiday parties, Galentine’s day and birthday celebrations. Her party themes have included Mamma Mia, One Direction, Prima donna and emo. She said several Brevard High Schools will be represented at the Homecoming event. 

“It makes sense for the schools to cancel [Homecoming] to not be responsible for risking students [and] for students to make this call themselves,” Kidd said.

West Shore’s Homecoming initially was scheduled for Sept. 25. Principal Rick Fleming said despite supporting the school district’s precautionary measures regarding COVID-19 protocols, he was saddened by the cancelation and hopes a winter formal can be scheduled in place.

“I was kind of numb,” Fleming said. “Deep down inside I knew [the cancellation] was coming. I had a gut feeling given the rise in cases and hospitalizations, but I was numb because what we do in the summer as an admin team, we sit down and we go through the entire master calendar of activities for the entire year. And to have all of those things mapped out and then to have something canceled was painful.”

Fleming said he sympathizes with students and parents seeking normalcy through traditional high school events, but large gatherings pose a concern.

“I don’t really have any control,” Fleming said. “I always worry about the fallout for something like that. For example, if a group of individuals get COVID. That’s why the schools under district direction have to operate under an abundance of caution. While I understand that students want to do that and have that enrichment piece, I’m nervous about it. There’s nothing that scares me more than when I leave here on a weekend that something is going to happen to a student at my school.”

Fleming said he follows the direct guidance from the CDC and Department of Health regarding vaccination and mask wearing. He said there remains “an element of risk” at any large social gathering.

“There will be groups of kids there who are not vaccinated,” Fleming said. “That scares me. Who is going to be there to supervise and remind students to keep their distance?”

Senior Rachel Benezra said she will be attending Kidd’s Homecoming.

“I was very upset when our senior Homecoming got canceled because that and Grad Bash are really the only events I was looking forward to for senior year,” Benezra said. “Homecoming is supposed to be a big generator of school spirit which is few and far between at West Shore and taking it away is extremely frustrating.”

Benezra attended Kidd’s Prom event last school year, and said she believes Friday night will provide her one of the last chances to be together with her friends at an event like Homecoming.

“Homecoming is important to me because to be a highly academic student at West Shore means you give up a lot of the typical ‘high school experience,’ especially with no football team,” Benezra said. “So senior Homecoming is one way to let us have a fun time with our peers as well as celebrate our academic success as a school. I also think the world needs to take steps to transition back into normality and the district continuing to take away only events that generate student morale is not getting us anywhere.”

Teachers also sympathize with the student’s experience with COVID-19 and the resulting canceled events.

“Of course I was going to hurt for the students who couldn’t go [to homecoming],” language arts teacher and Senior Class sponsor Heather Da Silva said. “This expectation had been set up, and then to dash it. I just really felt bad.”

Da Silva also said students should weigh the consequences of attending large, indoor gatherings.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people getting together and creating memories,” Sa Silva said. “That being said, actions have consequences. Last year, almost 100 people got quarantined from the Prom that happened, and I’m afraid that will happen again.”

Fleming said regardless of Homecoming’s status, he is saddened by the cancelation of traditional high school events.

“As much as [students] don’t realize, [school staff] enjoy those [events] as well,’ Fleming said. “We enjoy seeing the right of passage for our students as they emerge into high school and enjoy homecoming in a non-academic setting.”

In light of Homecoming’s cancellation, Da Silva said students can find alternative ways to celebrate with friends.

“For whatever it’s worth, put fancy clothes on, go have a nice dinner with three or four of your friends, go somewhere fun, take some pictures and then go do something interesting like play mini golf or go to Andretti and ride go-karts,” Da Silva said.

As Senior Class sponsor, Da Silva is tasked with helping the Senior Class officers get senior-related events and fundraisers approved and planned. She said she is put in the position of being the “villain” for advising against homecoming, but also supports the Senior Class in making a memorable high school year.

“As a human being I think, ‘Go, do your thing, enjoy it,’ Da Silva said. “But as a class sponsor, as a teacher, I look at this and go, ‘Ooh, you’re making short term choices that are going to have long term impacts. Because if something happens and there is another mass quarantine, admin has to make a decision: Can we trust [the students]. And the answer is no.”

Kidd said despite safety concerns from the district, she is vaccinated and feels safe to host and attend one last homecoming.

“I think it’s up to the students what experiences they wouldn’t like to sacrifice due to COVID,” Kidd said. “People not coming is entirely valid, but with so many students requesting it enough, and vaccinations available, it’s all up to the individual. People will choose whether to attend concerts, sports games, powderpuff, etc. To me homecoming is the same.”