Annual celebrations such as Pass it On become virtual or postponed to preserve traditions through the pandemic

Alexandra Warner & Grace Worsham

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing school to remain online for the remainder of the year, traditions such as graduation, Pass it On and Prom have been modified.

“We want to stay positive about what we can do,” Head of Upper School Henry Heil said. “We also want to make sure that we are trying to pick out what is most important and what is doable and trying to focus on that.”

A graduation week for the seniors has been arranged to take place from July 11-18. In a poll, the administration asked them which traditions they would like to incorporate to this week. Now, Prom is scheduled to take place on July 11 followed by graduation rehearsal at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and a Rally Day on the 15. The senior parent dinner is on the calendar for July 16, Baccalaureate on the 17 and the week will culminate with graduation on Saturday the 18. 

“We polled the seniors because we didn’t want to assume that we felt something was more important than something else…,” Heil said. “We are trying to be realistic about what’s important to the school and trying to align that with what’s important to students.”

Senior members of the Student Council and eighth grade leaders have partnered with the administration to work on Pass it On. It has been planned to be virtual, but they hope to be able to gather in small groups of seniors and eighth graders to have the lighting and passing of the candle. 

“We are moving forward with Pass it On while honoring the tradition of [it],” Associate Head of School Ruth Burke said. “We are being creative on how we can deliver that.”

The Junior Blue and Yellow Shirt Day could occur on several different dates. The options are to have it during the senior breakfast on the first day of school or to fit it into graduation week, since the juniors will be going to Prom. The juniors were also delivered rings and ring cards on April 24 by faculty and parents, who were each assigned an area to deliver to. This helped to uphold the ring ceremony tradition and keep the community connected.

“The feeling of community and connectivity… has really driven me and inspired me because that is what’s so special about ESD,” Burke said. “My goal… is to make sure that kids are having the best possible experience given the circumstances.”

Milestone Mondays is a virtual series that has been made to mimic ceremonies and events that were traditionally planned to occur at the end of the school year. This series has been a helpful tool to honor students for their achievements in academics, the arts, athletics, leadership and service.

“I love Milestone Mondays because it is a community event that people can watch as a family,” Heil said. “It is important to celebrate our successes…in the classroom, on the athletic fields, in the arts and in the community. We do a nice job of recognizing students who do all those things well.”

“My goal is to make sure that kids are having the best possible experience given the circumstances.”

Ruth Burke, Associate Head 
of School

Deciding what to do while honoring the values of the community has not been easy. The communications department and administration are trying to listen to everyone’s feedback; however, some of these can not be met. 

“Some folks have suggestions about delaying the ceremony or tradition until next year,” Burke said. “We really have not been able to honor that suggestion just because the beginning of the year is so busy. It would be really hard to move some of these to the beginning.”

Even though the administration is working to preserve these traditions, seniors are struggling with the unexpected ending of the school year.

“I remember I signed out the last day before Spring break,” senior Annie Walker said. “If we would’ve known it was our last time [at the school], we probably all would’ve soaked it up more…There are a lot of traditions that happen in May and April for seniors, so it’s really sad we don’t get to have [these traditions], but we’ll definitely be remembered for that. I think we are all trying to come together and find different ways to do those things.”

The whole community has been affected by the pandemic, and many members are trying to stay positive. Although these traditions are being altered, seniors and other students have more to look forward to in their future years of school. 

“There is a silver lining at the end of the day that they are going to college and that’s super fun,” alumni Hattie Browning said. “They will make so many good friends, and it will be even more exciting to come back for holidays and have reunions. But, you have grown up with these people for 10-15 years, and it was all just kind of halted. I hope they are able to rectify and knowing ESD, I don’t doubt they will do something special for the seniors.”

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