Construction Crushes Pep Rally Attendance

multiple projects decrease pep rally gym capacity

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Construction Crushes Pep Rally Attendance

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Large changes were made to weekly pep rally attendance due to unprecedented conflicts with the student entrance construction project, leaving the gym with only one exit. 

With no additional exits, Dallas City Fire Marshalls notified school administration having a capacity over 1,100 would be a serious fire hazard. The Fire Marshall’s update was given to HPISD the Monday before the pep rally, so Principal Walter Kelly and his administration were faced with the task of quickly figuring out how to salvage the school’s tradition of weekly pep rallies. Kelly made it clear, when asked, he believes pep rallies unify the student body and create a sense of school pride that can’t be found anywhere else. 

A meeting was held with representatives from major student organizations such as coaches, sports captains and presidents of large clubs. Kelly wanted input from people who reflected the rest of the student body, so as to handle it in a way that students would appreciate most. 

“He told us off the bat that the stadium would not be an option due to concerns of transportation to the stadium and asked us for solutions,” senior Softball Captain Grace Brown said.

The cafeteria and the auditorium were both ideas tossed up and shut down because they had a smaller capacity than the pep rally gym. The final idea that pushed through was having a round-robin system. Seniors would be allowed to go to every pep rally, and they would be paired with another grade, starting with juniors before rotating with freshmen, then sophomores. When a grade level is not going to the pep rally, they stay in their classroom until the rally ends.

“I’m not opposed to the system, but I feel like it limits the freedom the hour of the pep rally usually gives me,” junior Caleb Lewis said.

Even though this system saved the pep rallies, controversy remained among the student body over the decision to continue allowing the parents of students involved in the pep rally to attend. Though it originally appeared that the section dedicated to parents in past years would be used for students, the right bleachers on the visitor side were filled to the top with parents.

“I understand that there are fire hazards that have made it hard for people to go back and forth, but I think if you can’t let your kids go, then the parents shouldn’t go,” sophomore Meg Morril said.

In addition to the round-robin system, the need for a new emergency exit plan affected space in other ways. To create more space on the floor for the Belles, cheerleaders and teams of the week, the Highlander Band was moved off the floor into the stands, something never done before. 

 “Being in the band, I’ve never really been able to see the pep rally from up above, like seeing the cheerleaders routine from where it is supposed to be viewed,” junior Denice Devkumar said.  “Being able to see the formations and how it was supposed to look was really cool, and it made me appreciate the Belles and cheerleaders way more.” 

Odds are, pep rallies will be running with this new schedule for the rest of the school year. While construction of the northwest addition, containing the new band hall, MAPS program and 14 new classrooms, is expected to be completed September 17, the new student entrance has a much longer way to go, with expectations for completion reaching into the 2020-2021 school year.

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