(Photo Credit: Maddie Glaum/Adobe Photoshop/Achona Online)
On Feb. 11, the high school administration held a meeting with the senior class of 2021, detailing what many had thought to be impossible in the current state of coronavirus —the continuation of many traditional senior events and their modifications to be COVID-19 safe.
The presentation was held in the Brady Center during lunch by Principal Stephanie Nitchals, Vice Principal Erin Krukar, and Senior Events Coordinators and Social Studies Teachers Lori Kearney and Beth Chase. Each presented information about the traditional events held for seniors at the Academy, most of which are still expected to happen amidst COVID-19, though adjusted to meet the CDC’s guidelines.
“Everything has been more difficult with COVID-19. The COVID Task Force at Academy is trying to delicately balance our desire to have you receive the same special events as the classes before you have had, while also being mindful we are in a pandemic,” said Nitchals as she opened the meeting.
Below are the events in order, and the modifications made to make them possible:
The Senior Retreat is scheduled for Thursday, Mar. 11. Unlike all other retreats this year, the senior retreat will be at an off-campus location: DaySpring. For the first time this year, students will travel by bus, leaving school at 8:15 AM and returning in the evening between 10:30 PM and 11:30 PM. One major change compared to last year is the length of the retreat.
“I was surprised that the senior retreat was scheduled for only one day since senior retreat traditionally takes place over two days. When they announced it was only one day, I was disappointed. Even though the retreat itself will be a very long day, I just don’t think it will be the same experience that every other senior before us would’ve had,” said Grace Cronen (‘21).
While the duration of the retreat is not, as usual, much of the retreat is expected to remain the same. DaySpring has been the traditional site of the Senior Retreat for former senior classes and has been a highly-anticipated retreat, as students have the opportunity to rock climb, do low-ropes exercises, and the “Leap of Faith,” where students climb a 15-foot-pole and jump off the top. These activities at DaySpring are expected to still happen amidst COVID-19, while some social-distancing and mask-wearing precautions are expected to be implemented.
Senior Trip to Magic Kingdom: “I Prom-ise To Be Home By Midnight”
In place of the traditional Prom and Grad Bash which have been deemed high-risk because of an inability to enforce safety measures among non-Academy students, seniors now have the opportunity to go on the Academy seniors-only trip to Magic Kingdom at Disney World on Wednesday, Mar. 31. Seniors will arrive at school before 7:00 AM, where they will depart by bus to Orlando to spend the day at Magic Kingdom, which enforces strict mask and social-distancing policies on top of their 30% capacity. Because of this capacity, seniors are urged to purchase their tickets and reserve a spot at the park before Friday, Feb. 19. Seniors must also sign a COVID-19 waiver from Academy and submit a screenshot of their ticket purchase and park reservation to secure their spot on the bus. This Disney trip, created to replace Grad Bash and Prom, is the only non-traditional senior event to take place this year.
“I’m really excited to go to Disney with all my friends, and I think it will be equally as fun as Grad Bash would’ve been. It will be a great experience for us to continue bonding. We’ll be able to go on rides together as classmates, and overall have a fun day together,” said Emma Elder (‘21).
Last Senior Meeting
The final senior meeting will be held on Apr. 23, where seniors will receive information about obtaining their tickets for guests to attend graduation. This is where students will ensure outstanding fees or tuition, overdue books, team uniforms, and service hours have all been paid, returned, or completed. A failure to ensure the completion of any of these will cause a student to not be issued a diploma or a final transcript. Specific information about school-issued iPads and MacBooks will also be provided during the meeting.
Senior Farewell and Car Parade
On the seniors’ last day of school, Friday Apr. 30, the whole school will gather to wish its farewells to the class of 2021 in the form of poems, skits, or songs. While the seniors would typically kick off this farewell by running through the halls all the way into the pool, seniors are instead invited to decorate their cars as they parade around the Bayshore side of campus. Like in past years, seniors may still decorate their uniforms with paint, tie-dye, ribbon, or other items. The decorated cars may reflect the colleges each girl has committed to, or other quotes or sayings that encapsulate the class of 2021. Other students at school and senior family members are invited to watch the parade and participate in the farewell at designated times that are yet to be determined.
HNAA Induction and Mother-Daughter Mass
The mass and induction will take place at 10 AM on Wednesday, May 19. Instead of previous years, this event will take place off-campus at Christ the King. The induction into the Holy Names Alumni Association (HNAA) is typically held during the 88-year-old Silver Coffee event. However, as Silver Coffee is a traditionally social, tight-packed event held in the Brady Center with food, interaction, and the bustling of over 200 people, the induction ceremony will now be held during a socially-distanced mass at Christ the King Church.
“Because of the pandemic, we have moved all activities outside wherever possible. When that isn’t appropriate, we have tried to find a bigger venue. For example, the HNAA induction ceremony: that has historically been in the chapel, but that space is too small for social distancing, so we have reserved Christ the King for that event,” said Nitchals.
During the induction into the Alumni Association, seniors will sign the HNAA membership book, light a candle, and receive a certificate of membership, just as in years past. The only expected change is the larger venue and the social-distancing procedures.
“Even though we can’t have a full senior year, I’m still happy that we can still hold some of the events that celebrate our induction into the Alumni Association. Becoming a part of the HNAA is something I’ve been looking forward to for these past four years, so I’m happy that we’ve found a way to make it happen,” said Jenessa Bailey (‘21).
To recreate the feast of Silver Coffee, a mother-daughter luncheon will be held following the induction ceremony on Wednesday, May 19. The location of this luncheon will be announced soon, and more information will be released as the Mothers Association finalizes the details.
“We hope to have the luncheon at the Yacht Club, like in years’ past, and have asked them if we could hold it outside,” said Nitchals.
Baccalaureate Mass and Practice and Honors Convocation
Similar to the Mother-Daughter Mass, the annual Baccalaureate Mass will also be held off-campus at Christ the King Church, where it has traditionally been held. Practice for this mass will be Friday, May 21 at 1 pm at Christ the King, and should last until 2 pm. The Baccalaureate Mass itself will be held Sunday, May 23 at 2 pm at Christ the King. Seniors are allowed to bring only two parents, but four may be permitted in the case of divorced families. Students must wear their cap and gown to the event. After the Baccalaureate Mass, students will be recognized for achievements in athletics, arts, and more during the traditional Honors Convocation. The college each girl will be attending will also be announced, as well as the senior endowment total, the highest service hours, and the 2021 Senior of the Year.
Graduation practice will take place on Monday, May 24 promptly at 9:00 AM at the graduation location, which is yet to be determined. Practice will include the flower girls, who will present each senior with a dozen red roses. Participation in the Graduation Practice is mandatory to walk at graduation.
Graduation will take place on Monday, May 24 at 7:00 PM. The location has yet to be determined; however, as confirmed by Graduation Coordinator Beth Chase, the traditional Straz Center has been reserved for the event, but it is still uncertain if the venue will be open by May. Other possible locations of graduation are the front lawn of campus or the soccer field, the latter of which has many seniors upset.
“I’ve always been looking forward to having my graduation at the Straz because it’s the Academy tradition. When my sister graduated at the Straz, I thought it was so gorgeous and fitting for the occasion. I’d much rather have it there than on the soccer field,” said Sarah Devaney (‘21).
Depending on the location of graduation, girls may bring between two and four guests, with exceptions for siblings and divorced parents. During the ceremony, it is still expected that the class of 2021 Salutatorian and Valedictorian give their commencement speeches as usual and for each student to receive a dozen red roses from the selected flower girls for the event.
“We still hope to have graduation at the Straz, but they are not open at the moment. In the event that they don’t open prior to graduation, we plan to have the event on the soccer field,” said Nitchals.
Though the many senior events planned will be different from how they are usually celebrated, seniors should remember that the administration has worked diligently to ensure that seniors conclude their high school experience as traditionally, and as safely, as possible.