Hilites Dance, Pep Rallies See Changes Due To COVID-19

Principal shares his plans for upcoming school events


Photo by Matteo Winandy

While they announce the theme for the Hilites dance, seniors Grace Newhouse, Katelyn Turco, Piper Soetenga, Sterling Williams and Meg Lochausen hold up a banner. The announced theme for the dance was “This Place About To Glow,” which calls for neon colors in students’ outfits.

Zoie Carlile, Feature and Opinion Editor

The decision to cancel the annual Howdy Dance last month caused no personal joy for Principal Jeremy Gilbert.

“I really try to keep a pulse on the student body because that’s why we’re here, so I do talk to my students about what’s going on in the school and how they feel about certain events, and of course, they’re disappointed that we couldn’t have the Howdy Dance,” he said. “I’m disappointed too.”

However, Gilbert said he hopes everyone can understand where he is coming from when he has to make these tough decisions. 

The casual dance is traditionally held indoors in the north gym after the first home football game. 

“Everyone kind of comes in there, and it gets really hot and really crowded, and people are dancing and having a great time and blowing off steam, which is a great thing unless you’re in the middle of a global pandemic, where you know, everything says to space out when possible, be outdoors when possible, avoid close contact,” Gilbert said. “So with all of the things that are out there in regards to trying to keep people safe, I think the Howdy Dance was the recipe for something that we wouldn’t want to have happen.”

But the Howdy Dance isn’t the only fall school dance.

Hilites and Homecoming are the top two most anticipated dances among students, according to Gilbert, and they did not go forgotten.

“I’d rather postpone Howdy Dance to make sure that Hilites and Homecoming can happen and happen in a way that would be fun and enjoyable and safe,” he said.

To accommodate this vision, instead of being postponed or canceled, Hilites will be split into two sessions: one for juniors and seniors, from 8 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., and one for freshmen and sophomores from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. 

The dance will take place on its scheduled date of Oct. 2. As of Sept. 31, Homecoming is scheduled for Oct. 23. Details for the event are not yet available.

 Gilbert said that he considers not only the safety of students during these dances, but also other priorities that are even more pressing than student events. 

“We want to make sure that we preserve in-person learning at all costs,” he said. 

He mentioned the importance of in-person learning not just to him, but to students as well. After in-person learning, extracurriculars are another top priority this year. Then, possible school events. 

“I want to be able to not have an interruption to in-person learning, I want to finish every season that we start and I want to make sure that we have an in-person graduation this year,”  Gilbert said. 

The school’s attention to COVID-19 protocol in events has changed pep rallies as well. 

Only students will attend pep rallies this year due to space constraints in the north gym, with the exception of the October blacklight community pep rally. Additionally, each week only two grade levels attend the indoor pep rally – the seniors and one other class. The underclassmen rotate each week. 

The first pep rally of the school year was outdoors at Highlander Stadium. All grade levels attended. 

“I liked it,” sophomore Julian Raynal said. “I thought it was really hot, but I liked the vibe of it.”

Gilbert said the school would wait to hold another outdoor pep rally until the weather became cooler. One of the major pep rallies this fall, the Oct. 22 Homecoming pep rally, will be held outside. 

Additionally, there will be two blacklight pep rallies Oct. 29 back-to-back, while the community blacklight pep rally will be held the day before at 6:30 p.m. and will be open to all who wish to attend.

Sophomore Millie Brown said that she doesn’t like how the pep rallies have played out so far. When the school held a pep rally for only seniors and juniors, she wasn’t able to attend. 

“I also had a substitute so I couldn’t even watch it.” she said. 

Brown said that the outdoor pep rally at the stadium wasn’t an enjoyable experience either. 

“I kind of hated it because it was 100 degrees outside, and everyone around me was sweating and it was awful,” Brown said. 

She explained that she likes having pep rallies, but would really like to see everyone together in a gym for a school pep rally instead. 

“If we’re all able to go to school without a mask, I feel like we should be able to go to a pep rally,” she said. 

Seniors are the only group of students that have experienced full school pep rallies before in the past. Because of factors like constant construction and online school, pep rallies have been split up or virtual since the year when current seniors were freshman. 

Senior Lyla Meece said that full capacity pep rallies were loud, fun and full of school spirit. However, she understands why the school has to take more precautions this year. 

“I think having only two grades at a time is a really smart choice and a good compromise, and I honestly think it couldn’t be going better,” she said. 

Meece said that she also agrees with the changes made to the school dances this year, including the Howdy Dance. 

“I’m glad that they didn’t cancel it, but postponed it because I do hope that in the future we do get a Howdy Dance because it’s so much fun.” she said.

Gilbert said that he’s disappointed he won’t have the opportunity to have the full-capacity events that he hoped would happen.

“When I became the principal at Highland Park High School, one of the things that I was most looking forward to was standing out in the middle of that court, with all of my students in the crowd, and getting everybody going crazy and excited to be Scots,” Gilbert said. “And I haven’t been able to do that yet. 

Gilbert admires the way students, while disappointed, understood the challenges to holding events and worked with the school to overcome them.

“I love that about our student body,” Gilbert said. “I love that about our school. Scotties find a way.”