By Xander Norris
Oxford High School will play its homecoming football game Friday, Oct. 2, against Lewisburg High School. However, because of the ongoing pandemic and the 150 active cases of COVID-19 in Lafayette County – little else about this week’s homecoming, held through Friday, will be typical for the Chargers.
On Monday, OHS had its annual Homecoming parade. In years past, the parade would take place around the Square and begin with performances from OHS’s band, cheer team and dance team. Then, friends and family would watch as the high school’s clubs, student council members, sports teams and homecoming court members passed by on decorated floats, convertibles and double-decker buses.
But in 2020, COVID-19 threw a wrench into those plans; this year, the high school held its homecoming parade on campus. Gone were the floats and double-decker buses of yesteryear; instead, police officers directed traffic as cars drove by the front of the high school to honk and wave at the parade, which featured the cheer and dance teams and the homecoming maids, who were standing six feet apart with their escorts.
“It’s a really big event, but because of Corona, we’ve had to figure out ways that we can safely still do the parade because we have made it a tradition and it’s a big deal,” said senior Caroline McCready, the president of OHS’s student council.
At OHS, homecoming court is comprised of four freshmen, sophomore and junior maids, and six senior maids. While there is no homecoming dance this year because of COVID-19, McCready says OHS will still have a homecoming queen. As per tradition, the high school voted for their 2020 homecoming queen on Wednesday. During Friday’s football game, one of the senior maids will be crowned queen.
“I’m really honored to be part of homecoming court; it means a lot just to know that my classmates like me enough to vote for me,” senior homecoming maid Carissa Strum said. “But also, I’ve never done anything like it… so I’m excited, it will be a new experience, and I don’t know many people on the homecoming court, so I get to meet a lot of new people, too.”
In addition to the parade and football game, the only other homecoming event not canceled was the high school’s spirit week, which entails students coming to school dressed in an outfit that coincides with each day’s theme. McCready says this year’s spirit week will feature holiday-centric themes.
“We came up with the theme of holidays for homecoming week; Monday through Friday, we have different themes like Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Home for the Holidays, which is like Christmas pajamas,” McCready said. “We are just finding ways to get the whole school involved even though we aren’t allowed to do much, but we are still trying to do stuff as much as possible.”
While the high school did not cancel the parade, spirit week, and football, McCready says that OHS scrapped homecoming traditions like powderpuff, pep rallies, and the homecoming carnival because school administrators decided that the virus could easily spread during these close-contact events.
In their most recent COVID-19 case report, which is updated every Monday, the Oxford School District reported that the schools in its district had zero cases. Since in-person classes resumed on Aug. 24, the OSD has had a total of 21 cases, according to HottyToddy.com. McCready says she believes the Oxford School District’s procedures and guidelines have helped limit the spread of COVID-19 at her high school.
“They have done such a great job preventing the spread of it, a lot of students have actually had it over the summer or tested positive for antibodies; also, teachers and students are all required to wear masks and stay six feet apart,” McCready said. “As soon as there’s a student in the class who tests positive, you’re notified as soon as possible through email. And then if there is someone sitting near you, within six feet, [who] tests positive, then you are sent home for two weeks; they are really preventing the spread of it and shutting down anything before it starts to get any worse.”
Most of OHS’s COVID-19 policies and guidelines come from the OSD’s Return-to-Learn plan, created by a committee that the school district formed back in April. According to The Oxford Eagle, the committee included local officials, school officials, nurses and others who formulated a return to school plan based on considerations made by the Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi State Department of Health. Superintendent Brian Harvey says he thinks that wearing masks and social distancing as much as possible on school buses and in classrooms has helped Oxford schools reduce the number of positive cases.
“I think that our protocols and the work that our administrative team, our support staff, and our teachers – because they are the ones who are doing it in the classrooms – have put in has been one of the reasons that we’ve had the lack of positive cases and quarantines to the extent that we’ve had,” Harvey said. “Now, we have still had some positive cases and quarantines, but I think we were all expecting so much worse.”