BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon-Upshur High School Homecoming festivities have been moved to mid-October – about a month later than the original date – school officials announced earlier this week at the Upshur County Board of Education meeting.
However, students and school officials are still grappling with what this year’s Homecoming celebration, which typically includes a parade, coronation, pep rally and dance, will even look like amid the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing protocols.
During Tuesday’s BOE meeting, Buckhannon-Upshur High School Student Council Representative Henry ‘Hank’ Phillips, along with B-UHS Student Council Advisor Michael Wilson, approached the BOE as a delegation to update them on the upcoming B-UHS Homecoming.
They also asked the board for permission to move forward with their plan for Homecoming activities, which include a parade and pep rally.
Since the duo approached the BOE as a delegation, no vote on the matter could take place that evening by the BOE. The item does appear on the upcoming BOE agenda for their regular meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22 at Hodgesville Elementary School.
Wilson said the reason for their visit is every year, student council members go before the Buckhannon City Council seeking approval for the B-UHS Homecoming Parade Route.
The original Homecoming Parade was slated for Wednesday, Sept. 23.
“What we had done, Hank Phillips went to the City Council meeting but since that time, due to a delayed school start date, we have changed the Homecoming Week to Oct. 19 to 24,” Wilson said. “We have made modifications of what we thought we would do for the parade. I have talked to Quinten Oldaker (with the Upshur County Schools Technology Department) about the possibility of the parade being live-streamed so it would be visible to all.”
Hank said he was seeking guidance for the upcoming Homecoming Parade which has been rescheduled for Oct. 21, 2020.
“We, the student council, have already discussed several areas of the plan, but still need your approval and guidance to keep our students and community safe,” Hank said. “Some ideas we had are for the Homecoming Court to ride in their own vehicles. Sports teams could walk together with their masks and anyone attending the parade would be required to wear a mask and be six feet apart.”
A pep rally at Jawbone Park also had been proposed.
Wilson said Buckhannon City Council wants approval by the BOE before they approve the proposed parade. Hank attended Sept. 3 city council meeting to seek approval for the parade and pep rally, and city officials suggest he and Wilson consult the BOE first.
“The Homecoming Coronation is scheduled for the same day, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, but we will not have any students present – it is just for the parents, along with the participants,” Wilson said. “We are having it live-streamed.”
BOE vice president Katie Loudin asked if there are provisions in case the county changes colors according the Governor’s map.
“Is it that if we are gold or below, it doesn’t go?” Loudin inquired.
“If we are restricted by the Governor’s guidelines, it doesn’t happen,” Wilson said.
BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples said she spoke with Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner, who reportedly told Samples he was unsure if a permit for Main Street could be obtained. Under the governor’s current executive order, outdoor music festivals, fairs and gathering of 25 people or more are still banned.
BOE member Kristi Wilkerson said someone else from the City of Buckhannon had reached out to her with some concerns.
“They are not sure, last I heard, that it (a homecoming parade) could be implemented in a way that they would be in compliance with the Governor’s requirements at this point,” Wilkerson said. “They have a lot of concerns.”
Samples said, ‘We need to be sure we are meeting every single guideline. We cannot put the students or the community at risk.”
Wilkerson asked if this proposal had been discussed with Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department or Dr. Joseph Reed.
“Not at this point,” Wilson replied.
Loudin asked that the item be placed on the next regular BOE meeting agenda.
“If we could get feedback from the Health Department with clear guidelines that would help. I would like to see the plan telling who will be in the parade and who will be along the parade route,” Loudin said.