Canceled but not forgotten: Homecoming in remote learning

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On April 7, the Homecoming Highlights Reel was released after all Homecoming activities were canceled. (Graphic Illustration by Audrey Wong.)

Audrey Wong

After months of planning in hopes of having Homecoming for the 2020-21 school year, class officers scrapped plans for a virtual Homecoming because it could not replicate the in-person experience. Class officers canceled all Homecoming activities this school year and have worked with ASB to release a Homecoming Highlights Reel on April 7. 

Class officers met with Leadership adviser Jason Lee at the end of May 2020 to discuss individual themes for each class. Classes agreed to pause all in-person activities until they received clarification from the district regarding when schools would reopen. 

“Ms. Rocha and I approved tentative planning schedules, and class officers created a few scenarios at the beginning of the school year based on county restrictions and tier lists,” Lee said. “We were not planning on proceeding with anything until we felt comfortable that things were concrete, but things kept changing throughout the fall and up until our most recent meeting on March 4.”

To prepare for the worst-case scenario, the senior class planned to organize a scaled-down, virtual Homecoming. Similarly, the other classes also wanted to create an event similar to a normal Homecoming in hopes of meeting their classes’ expectations.  

The overarching theme for 2020-21 Homecoming was Myths and Legends. The Class of 2022’s subtheme was “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” the Class of 2023’s was “The Afterlife” and the Class of 2024’s was “Greek Mythology and Legends.” In line with the senior class’s tradition of keeping their theme a mystery, the Class of 2021 planned to use “Compass Legends on Maps” and “The Legend of Victor the Viking” as cover-up themes. Their actual theme was “Fountain of Youth.” 

In place of planter box decorations, all class officers planned to incorporate more skit decorations and props, along with other smaller objects that could be created without the usual large “planters” meetings. All officers decided to not create a full backdrop and eventually halted all decoration activities due to confusion regarding how classes would film and whether their skits actually needed decoration.  

As a result, a video of each classes’ skits would have been the main focus of a virtual Homecoming. All classes prepared to film either on or off-campus. Skit writers outlined the main scenes together, and each was assigned a scene to complete on their own. 

The skits were scheduled to be filmed on campus from March 20 to April 2. Unlike previous years when ASB would record the live skits, each class selected individuals to be responsible for filming and editing. For the senior class, Pranav Chittharanjan and Austin Tong volunteered to film and edit the skits. 

Since students could not practice in person every week for months, most of the dances were reduced from three minutes to one minute. While there were no requirements to keep the traditional three dances in the skit, all of the classes decided to keep co-ed, girls and boys dance. 

To teach the dances, the Class of 2021 choreographers filmed videos of themselves to give participants a preview of the dance. Then the choreographers provided more detailed instruction during Zoom meetings like they would during traditional practices. Many students felt that Zoom delay and the virtual format made it tedious to teach and learn the dances. They missed being able to interact with their peers while learning the dances, as it was one of the many highlights of in-person practices.  

“On Zoom, we all understand that only one person can talk at a time,” Class of 2021 President Jonathan Huang said. “It felt more like a class than a community gathering.”

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions and the lack of in-person interactions, there was a decreased interest in Homecoming across many classes. The Class of 2023 was the only exception; it had to limit the number of dancers and hold auditions for actors early in July last year. To combat low turnout, the Class of 2024 officers posted graphics and reached out to their friends in hopes of increasing participation. They found that the continual flood of graphics on social media increased their participation so much that officers had to host auditions for actors since there were not enough roles. However, as the year progressed, the classes faced a decline in participation, and, thus, canceled their skits. 

Still, Class of 2021 officers hoped to allow seniors to relive their high school Homecoming experiences and introduce the freshman class to Homecoming. They proposed a video compilation of previous Homecoming clips, from the early 2000s to the most recent Homecoming, which was released on April 7. 

“When we decided to get rid of the original plan for a virtual Homecoming, we needed to consider what we were missing out on, such as student participation, the lack of introduction to Homecoming for freshmen, and that seniors will be missing out on their last Homecoming,” Huang said. “We thought that a nostalgic video would be best for students to remember and leave a sweet taste after leaving high school.”

To preserve the hard work put into Homecoming, classes had the option to feature their skits and dances in an open slot of Indesign’s Virtual Fashion Show on May 28.

The Class of 2024 had already finished writing their skit when the video of the skits was canceled and still wanted to showcase their work. The Class of 2024 officers sent out a Google form to see if the students still wanted to participate in the Indesign Fashion Show as a class event rather than a Homecoming event. The form concluded that 75% of the class did not want to participate in the fashion show, so the class officers decided against the idea. 

“I think we were definitely ahead of the game because freshmen tend to be more spirited, and they were really excited for it,” Class of 2024 President Anika Sundararajan said. “I think the fact that the seniors, juniors and sophomores have had Homecoming before and knew this year’s show wouldn’t be the same caused their participation to be much lower.” 

The class officers had hoped that this year’s new Homecoming plan would bring the classes together and celebrate the traditional event that made high school special. 

 “I hope it rekindles the hope students have for the magic of homecoming,” Class of 2023 president Emma Tu said. “Some of that might be forgotten; some of that might be just like a distant memory of hope. By seeing the new plans, I hope it kind of rekindles the excitement for the people in the Class of 2022 and 2023. For 2024, I hope it shows them just how wonderful Homecoming can be and what they can look forward to.” 

While many students are disappointed with the outcome, they hope next year’s Homecoming, with the theme of the Multiverse, will live up to the hype of a normal year as they make their way back to in-person learning.