As students settle into the third trimester, the reality that Winnacunnet will be sending off it's Senior class within a matter of months is setting in as well. The class of 2021, much like the class of 2020, saw huge changes to high school life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that activities like graduation and Senior Banquet are closing in, Winnacunnet is facing much of the same challenges as it did a year ago.
“We understand the Senior class has missed out on a lot, if we go back a year ago in March,” Principal William McGowan said. “We want to be able to recognize and celebrate their successes.”
The class of 2021 was unable to have a prom last spring and has had an irregular school year since September, starting the year completely remote and transitioning to a hybrid model in January.
“Things can always improve from where we are now,” McGowan said.
In an email, McGowan laid out a schedule of some key dates during the upcoming months, the most noteworthy to Seniors being June 9, 10 and 11, Senior Awards Night, Senior Banquet and graduation, respectively.
McGowan said Senior Awards Night will most likely be a remote affair, since that event will involve attendees from outside the school system.
The latter events, Senior Banquet and graduation, are currently being planned to be outside.
“I have rented two large tents and we’ll be renting a dancefloor [for Senior Banquet],” McGowan said.
McGowan said the school does still have reservations for the Sheraton from the aforementioned cancelled prom, but the Senior class barely fit into the venue pre-pandemic, which is why the event will likely take place outdoors.
“We’re looking at all potential options as to how we have food there [the school],” McGowan said. “Whether it's catered or we have food trucks and what the seating arrangements are.”
McGowan said graduation will be outside.
“Worst case, we may have to do what we did last year, based on spacing and requirements,” McGowan said.
Last year’s seniors had a predetermined number of tickets and were placed spread out with their families on the football field. No audience was permitted for the event.
“I spoke to the Senior class officers and they have some creative ideas,” McGowan said.
Senior Class President Colby Petalas said he was invited by McGowan to a large-scale Zoom meeting with other principals and student councils from around N.H. to discuss how other districts were handling end of year activities.
“It was very effective and we have some really good ideas in the works,” Petalas said. “Speaking for myself, I feel I was heard and both Mr. McGowan and our council advisers were very receptive to the ideas. We just sent out a survey to get a feel for what our fellow classmates are looking for.”
The survey was finalized on March 26 and is expected to close on Friday, April 2.
“As of now, we are working to figure out more of the details for the end of the year activities,” Petalas said. “It is slightly difficult as we can't predict what the end of the year will look like, but I am certain, it will be the best end of year possible.”
McGowan said the school is trying to plan activities for senior week, the week between the last day for seniors, June 4, and graduation, June 11.
“Last year the Senior class had none of that. This year we’re in a position that we’re in the building and we can start putting things in place,” McGowan said. “They may be modified and different.”
Petalas said the issue of funding has circulated during the conversations about senior activities.
“Because we have not held fundraisers in over a year, it is a bit tricky as we are low on funds,” Petalas said. “But we have been assured by [the] administration that lack of funding will not prevent us from making the activities super awesome, and they will support us in that aspect.”