Grandview Heights Schools’ COVID-curtailed homecoming features reimagined court

Alan Froman
ThisWeek group
Members of Grandview Heights High School’s 2020 homecoming court are (front row, from left): Juliana Bongiorno, Brynne Obringer, Cate Stanley, Lindsey Bertani, (second row) Cora Wilson, Caroline Kahle, Jansen Craft,  (back row) Connor Dobies, PJ Tingler, Alecco Walli and Adam Ellis. The court was not divided by gender in a bid for more inclusivity.

Grandview Heights High School will play its homecoming football game Friday, Oct. 2, against Columbus Academy – but little else about the homecoming season will be typical this year. 

About the only activity that will proceed as normal will be the daily dress-up themes, student council adviser Kevin McCarthy said. 

Although Spirit Week will be held through Friday, Oct. 2, other homecoming activities will be restricted due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

Spirit Week activities are planned each year by student council. 

Students were invited to come to school dressed in a costume fitting each day’s theme, which included Mismatch Day, Twin Day, Hawaiian Luau Day and Dress Like a Decade Day. 

Oct. 2 is Dress Like Your Hall or Bobcat Spirit Day. 

While the annual hall-decorating activity was scheduled to be held as usual – from 3 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 1 – only 10 students would be allowed to work on a hall at the same time, McCarthy said. Students also would be required to wear masks. 

“During peak times in a typical year, you might have 25 or 30 students working on a hall at one time. That’s just not possible this year,” he said. “Part of what makes the hall-decorating night so much fun is spending time with a large portion of your class.  

“Hopefully, the students can be creative and figure out ways that groups of their classmates can work together outside in the parking lot painting or making a decoration and send it into the hallway.” 

This year’s theme for the hall decorations is movie genres.  

The freshman class chose sci-fi; sophomores selected action/adventure; juniors took horror; and seniors will base their hall on animated movies. 

Several traditional activities will not be held due to the pandemic, including the annual Powder Puff game, the homecoming dance and the in-person pep rally. 

“As the tiniest of consolations, we’ll be playing music in between classes all day on Friday,” McCarthy said. “You’ll (be able) to break out your best dance moves in the hallways that day – with safe social distancing, of course.” 

In place of the usual pep rally, a group of students has been working to create a video pep rally, including contributions and skits from as many student groups and teams as possible, McCarthy said. 

The video pep rally will be distributed to students and staff Oct. 2 and will include the announcement of the winner in the hallway-decorating contest, he said. 

“I think students are a little disappointed that some of the usual activities can’t be held,” McCarthy said. “At the same time, the students I’ve talked to are showing resilience and optimism. They understand why we have to scale things back and want to celebrate homecoming in whatever way they can.” 

“Homecoming Week is definitely unifying,” said Josie Cantelmo, who serves as the senior class secretary on student council.  

“It’s nice to be able to feel like we are experiencing some normalcy even though these aren’t normal times,” Cantelmo said. 

Students are discouraged that events such as the dance or pep rally can’t be held as usual or at all, but they are excited about what they will be able to do, including the hall-decorating contest and video pep rally, she said. 

“I’m really looking forward to the pep-rally video,” Cantelmo said.  

“There’s always a video we show at the pep rally that’s a lighthearted, funny way to introduce the homecoming court, and we’ll still be able to do that.” 

“In some ways, this year’s Spirit Week will have more meaning than ever because it will give students a way when we can’t all be together under our hybrid model to be united as Bobcats,” McCarthy said. 

Under the hybrid model, students are attending class in the high school either in the morning or afternoon each day. 

A change has been made to the homecoming court tradition, but it isn’t COVID-related, McCarthy said. 

“For the past few years, student council and the student body in general have been talking about whether there was some way we could move away from the traditional gender-oriented homecoming court,” he said. “There was a desire to move away from a system they felt was archaic and old-fashioned. They wanted to maintain the homecoming-court tradition, but not have it necessarily be a court consisting of five men and five women.”  

This year, seniors were given a list of all their classmates and asked to select the 10 – regardless of gender – they think embody what it means to be a Bobcat, McCarthy said. 

The two students receiving the most votes will be named “homecoming royalties,” he said. 

“It’s a more progressive and inclusive way to do the court and to include students who are part of the LGBTQ community,” Cantelmo said. 

“Some people identify as nonbinary and when you have a homecoming court ‘king and queen,’ it can put people in a box,” she said.  

The 2020 homecoming court vote saw a tie for 10th place, so the court consists of 11 students: Lindsey Bertani, Juliana Bongiorno, Jansen Craft, Connor Dobies, Adam Ellis, Caroline Kahle, Brynne Obringer, Cate Stanley, PJ Tingler, Alecco Walli and Cora Wilson. 

The entire student body will select the two royalties. 

The court was set to be presented at halftime of the home soccer game Sept. 30, with a limited crowd in attendance, and not at the homecoming football game Oct. 2, McCarthy said. 

The soccer team has fewer players, so it will be easier to allow the parents of the students on homecoming court as well as some seniors to attend the ceremony, given the limits on how many people can attend sporting events, he said. 

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