How teamwork and planning made Homecoming Week a return to normalcy for Woodland students, staff, and community members alike
Woodland High School students experienced their first true Homecoming Celebration in two years thanks to innovative planning to accommodate health and safety guidelines, the use of expansive outdoor tents, and the warmth from space heaters generously donated by Woodland community members.
Students enjoyed a return to normalcy, at least somewhat, on Fri., Oct. 15 following the WHS Beavers’ Homecoming football game when the school held its first dance since the pandemic started in March 2020 with a first-of-its-kind outdoor event held in the high school’s quad. To ensure student health and safety, the Department of Health required all attendees to wear masks and the entire event was held outside where ventilation could provide the maximum level of protection against any potential virus spread.
Woodland Public Schools procured two massive 40-foot by 40-foot outdoor tents where students could congregate, and space heaters were set up to provide comfortable heating during the season’s cooler temperatures. Following the dance, the tents will remain set up throughout the school year so students can enjoy meals and breaks outside regardless of any inclement weather.
Shari Conditt, the high school’s government teacher who also serves as the school’s ASB adviser, served as the lead coordinator and organized the entire event. Planning for Homecoming 2021 actually started 18 months earlier in February 2020. “I ordered all of the required supplies for a homecoming dance in February 2020, however, since we were already hearing about the potential threat of COVID-19, I luckily had the foresight to not have dates printed on any of the materials in case we weren’t able to hold the dance in 2020,” said Conditt. “Even as we entered the current school year, there was a lot up-in-the-air when planning started in early 2021; we still didn’t know if we’d be able to hold a dance.”
Even as the start of school approached in August, the possibility of homecoming dances for any of the area schools this fall remained uncertain. Conditt reached out to other districts to get a feel for how the area’s schools were approaching their homecoming events. “I contacted ASB advisers in our neighboring districts to get an idea for what they were planning for the fall,” said Conditt. “Some of them were approved for a homecoming event while others were told flatly ‘no.’”
Conditt established a planning committee including WHS Principal Phillip Pearson, WHS Assistant Principal Dan Uhlenkott, the district’s Facilities and Safety Director Scott Landrigan, and even Superintendent Michael Green. The committee consulted with the Department of Health to develop health and safety guidelines to prevent any potential virus spread during the dance. “Scott suggested we use tents to organize an outdoor event, and, initially, we were unsure whether students would need to wear masks,” said Conditt. “However, when we spoke with students, they all agreed that they would much rather wear masks if the alternative meant not having a dance at all.”
Benno Dobbe, a Woodland community member and long-time benefactor of Woodland High School, generously provided several space heaters so students and chaperones alike could remain comfortable during the outdoor event. “We are incredibly grateful for Mr. Dobbe’s ongoing support,” said Conditt. “Without space heaters, holding the dance outside in October might not have been possible.”
In addition to the homecoming dance, the school held a variety of traditional events during the week of homecoming such as spirit days where students dressed up to the theme “Green, White, and Black is Back.” Additionally, staff added new traditions such as a door-decorating contest. “This is the very first homecoming dance for our Freshmen and Sophomores, so we wanted to make it incredibly special, particularly since we were unable to have our celebration assembly as we typically do,” said Conditt.
The school also held two charity drives: a food drive with donations going to the Woodland Action Center and a coin drive with proceeds donated to the district’s elementary schools to purchase books. “The door decoration contest added color into our halls for Homecoming Week and really drove school spirit for both students and staff,” said Conditt. “We wanted to take the special themes and traditions of homecoming by keeping what we could but also adjusting for the times in which we currently live.”
The return of homecoming this year not only meant events for students, but also the return of spectators at the homecoming football game, too. “I’m excited for our traditions to return alive and well for our community, too,” said Conditt. “None of this would have been possible without all the people involved – the entire homecoming was a community undertaking.”
Find out more about how Woodland Public Schools keeps students safe, healthy and in school by visiting the district’s COVID-19 HQ at: www.woodlandschools.org/covid-hq
Information provided by Woodland School District.