Unlike the decisions of most neighboring schools, Principal Chris Rau made it his top priority to give the students of Lewis Mills their first “normal” social event in almost two years: an indoor homecoming, complete with a DJ, flashing lights, and the chaotic mosh pit in the gym.
The main way this Saturday’s big event is being made possible is through collection of medical records. With either an emailed copy of a Covid vaccine card, or a proof of a negative test result, students will be able to purchase their tickets on the Thursday and Friday before the dance. Rau has estimated that an upwards of 70 percent of students in Burlington and Harwinton are vaccinated, but claimed that he should get a better estimate once he receives more student medical records. To his surprise, there has been little to no controversy amongst the district’s parents due to the dance guidelines.
“Most parents are honestly just excited,” he explained.
The main question surfacing among the student body is that of the mask mandate. And while yes, masks are required for entry, Rau explains that the chaperones in the gym will not be obsessing over students’ masks while they dance. With the added level of safety precautions, there is a much lower level of risk, he said. If a student were to test positive following the event, all vaccinated persons would immediately be removed from the quarantine list. From there, an interview process would follow to determine who spent the most time with said student.
This carefully thought-out process unfortunately eliminates the ability to bring outside guests to the dance, regardless of vaccination. Principal Rau feels it too risky, because not only does he feel uncomfortable asking non-students for their medical records, but he also explained that he may not be able to contact them following the dance if a Covid case does surface. While Rau feels bad for those with significant others from neighboring towns, this is the one aspect of homecoming that Rau said he was willing to sacrifice for the safety of the Mills student body.
For the underclassmen at Mills, this is their first real high school event. Coming into high school amidst a global pandemic, social gatherings had been paused for the time being. Additionally, for the sophomore class, it’s their first dance ever- their 8th grade formal was cancelled as well.
“I’ve never been to a formal school dance because of the pandemic. It interfered with my social transition to high school,” says sophomore Aby Wroblewski, as she reflected on her social experiences during the pandemic.
Being deprived of school events all last year, the class of 2024 is new to the social scene at Lewis Mills. Losing the community aspect of high school in the past couple of years has created walls among the student body. The grades have been, for the most part, isolated over the past year and a half, so there has been little interaction between classes. Principal Rau is hopeful that homecoming and other future events will begin to tear down these walls, and Mills will be unified once again.
Many students across the state have started to lose excitement for the school year as this pandemic drags on. Being deprived of sporting events, pep rallies, and even a normal cafeteria where students can sit by one another over the last 18 months has left students with little to look forward to during the school year. Yet the promise of a normal homecoming sparks hope in many of the students of Lewis Mills. It evokes memories of past years in which the school year was fun and exciting. If all goes well, homecoming will prove to not only Region 10, but to surrounding communities that it is possible to resume normality in some capacity.