Representatives of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School Class of 2021 want their last months of high school to feel “normal” with a prom and graduation. They petitioned the administration and school board for responses to four actions they say will have a direct impact on their last months at H-F.
“We are a group of seniors who feel strongly that our voices deserve to be heard regarding decisions that are impacting our senior year,” the petition reads.
During the Tuesday, Feb. 16, board meeting, the petition was presented virtually. Over a 24-hour period, more than 1,400 students and supporters signed the petition. Administrators said they will take the requests under advisement.
“We do hear you, and we will be processing this,” Superintendent Von Mansfield said after the petition was read.
When students return to H-F on March 2 for hybrid learning, the petitioners asked that seniors be grouped together “since this is the last time we will see each other in a school setting. As responsible, young adults we are capable of wearing a mask and maintaining proper social distancing procedures while on campus.”
Principal Jerry Anderson said that would be a difficult request to meet. Students on the hybrid model are going to be divided into four groups, not necessarily by their year at H-F. The principal said each group is balanced to meet the safety standards for social distancing set by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“We can take a look at it, but I’ll say it’s going to be pretty complicated because of the number of students who are coming back,” Anderson said.
The students also asked that they be exempt from final exams. They pointed out that many already have been accepted to colleges and universities. Also, the Class of 2020 didn’t take finals, and they had remote learning for only three months, compared with the seven months for current students.
The seniors want a traditional end-of-senior-year event – a prom. In the past, the dance was put on by the junior class at a special venue and was open to H-F students and their dates. Final touches were being made for the H-F 2020 prom at a Chicago restaurant before the COVID-19 virus ended all parties and events.
The seniors are willing to dispense with tradition. The petition says the event can be limited to just members of the senior class “allowing for a safer experience. Obviously, this prom would not be a typical prom, so even if it just meant to walk through the field house, take photos and see some of our peers, we would certainly be thankful to have the opportunity to feel closure to our high school careers.”
Anderson said, “Prom is something that we’ve already begun to discuss, having some type of in-person social distancing event.” She said prom was one of several topics being discussed by the Principal’s Advisory Committee made up of students at all grade levels. She said student government representatives also are discussing topics important to students.
The last petition request was for a traditional H-F High graduation ceremony outdoors on the stadium turf for the 715 graduates. The seniors believe social distancing can be observed and students should be able to invite one or two family members to attend.
Mansfield said graduation has been discussed, and the administration “hopes to use some of the things we learned last year for this year’s graduation” to do “as good a job as we possibly can.”