Monday, September 25, 2023

Local high school PTSAs work to give seniors a special year in pandemic

Local high school PTSAs are giving their seniors as close to a traditional senior year as possible. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Pixabay)

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — A typical senior year involves prom, homecoming games, college tours, senior nights and graduation. 

For the class of 2021, its senior year has been anything but typical. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors have missed out on some of the most cherished parts of the high school experience. With a complicated year of hybrid learning, local high school Parent-Teacher-Student associations (PTSA) are working to ensure that their seniors are still celebrated and that even those who remained virtual feel included.

Warhill High School (4615 Opportunity Way, Williamsburg)

Mychael Willon, Williamsburg-James City County Schools (WJCC) PTA council president and Warhill High School (WHS) PTSA president, said that Warhill High School’s PTSA has been trying to find contactless and safe ways to give seniors a memorable year.  

When members of WHS’s PTSA realized that they were coming up short on funds for their seniors, the organization started a fundraiser to help recognize and celebrate the school’s seniors.

The goal was to provide t-shirts for the students so that they would have a tangible memento of their last year of high school. 

Warhill’s PTSA set up a spirit night at New York Deli in April to raise money for senior t-shirts.

“The kids have had an amazingly difficult year, beyond challenging,” Willon said. “I can’t even fathom, I remember my senior prom. We’re trying to find things to give the kids at least some kind of semblance of order and remembrance that they can take into their lives.”

Warhill’s PTSA is also trying to host a Senior Day at Busch Gardens, and has been placing signs in the yards of graduating seniors. 

“There’s no question that parents and businesses have certainly stepped up to the plate,” Willon said. “The parents who don’t have seniors are still very supportive, because they realize that senior year is such a special and unique year and things are going to be different.”

Poquoson High School (51 Odd Rd, Poquoson)

At the other end of the Historic Triangle, seniors that attend Poquoson High School (PHS), of Poquoson City Public Schools, will get to go to prom this year.

Seven PHS parents have been raising funds for a masquerade-themed prom. 

“Our awesome small town is rallying behind us and showing support through volunteering, donating and helping to spread the word to others,” Sybil Smith, a Poquoson High School parent, said.

York High School (9300 George Washington Memorial Hwy, Yorktown)

Seniors of York High School (YHS) of York County School Division (YCSD), parents and faculty have tried to come up with creative solutions to safely hold traditional senior events. 

YHS staff member and senior class sponsor, Jeremy Conrad, said that since the beginning of the school year, parents of the school’s senior class have produced packs of goodies to distribute every month, making sure to include students who remained virtual. 

The goodie packs were packed with various items including hand sanitizer, candy, face masks, hot cocoa kits, baked goods and commemorative cups.  

“They’ve [the parents] stood outside the school in both heat and cold to make sure our virtual students had an opportunity to pick up their goodies each month,” Conrad said.

While Conrad noted that with half of the students back in the building and the other half still working virtually, it’s been challenging to plan events.

However, he still looks forward to events that are coming up in the final few weeks of the school year. One of these special events will include prom. 

“To comply with COVID[-19] rules, we are holding an outdoor prom on our campus under a massive tent with unique features like multiple dance floors to help provide additional space for social distancing,” he said. 

The PTSA is also hosting a “senior send-off” on the football field, which will include a variety of games and inflatables to give the seniors a chance to de-stress and have some fun.

Near the end of the school year, the school will also host a Senior Week, including themed days and a “senior walk,” in which the soon-to-be graduates will have the opportunity to return to their elementary and middle schools to revisit their old classrooms and teachers. 

Senior week will conclude with a senior breakfast banquet held at Kingsmill Resort and an assembly with various presentations, honoring the graduating class.

“I think most people have been really appreciative of the opportunities to hold these types of events,” Conrad said. “Parents, faculty, and administrators have reached out at every turn to offer their time, expertise, and financial assistance wherever we’ve needed it.”

Bruton High School (185 E Rochambeau Dr, Williamsburg)

Seniors attending Bruton High School (BHS), also in YCSD, will also have prom and Senior Week this year. 

Bruton High teacher and senior sponsor, Lyndsay Kimbro, said that it was important to the staff that the seniors received as close to a traditional year as possible. 

“We announced in January that our students would have a prom this year,” she said. “Seeing their faces light up as we shared a Save the Date with them still remains one of the biggest highlights of the year for me.”

Similar to YHS, Bruton will also have a traditional Senior Week, which Kimbro said is one of her favorite weeks of the year.  

It gives us a chance to celebrate our seniors and all they have accomplished in their academic career,” she said. “This year is even more special because they have made it through during a pandemic.”


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