Greenville Public School District students have a little something more to look forward to this fall as the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve homecoming activities with the exception of tailgating in order to impede the potential for a super spreader event.
Scheduled for Oct. 1, the Greenville-Weston Homecoming is a mere weeks away and district leaders during Thursday’s special meeting presented a layout of the organization of activities that will take place during that week.
Due to the current COVID-19 mitigation strategies that are being implemented in the district, Superintendent Debra Dace, along with Greenville High School principal Tarrinasha Brown-Jones, wanted to share with the board what would possibly be implemented for its homecoming and tailgating event.
“Because it’s such a big event in Greenville, we do want to honor right now the mitigation strategies with the mask wearing and social distancing as best as we can,” Dace said. “And, because right now it’s our understanding that surrounding districts are implementing homecoming activities, we want to offer the same for our students and for the board to hear what we’re planning and to get some feedback from you guys.”
Jones proceeded with going over the normal activities associated with homecoming such as the coronation, parade and the on-field coronation, which takes place during halftime of the Friday night football game.
She noted the number of participants in the homecoming court would be reduced from the usual 100 students to an estimated 30 students.
“We typically give an opportunity for young people who are representing things like clubs and student organizations that normally would not get the opportunity to do so, but because of the number of students and spectators we have that come back, we decided to reduce that to just the main level student categories including all of the winners as well as their runner-ups,” Brown-Jones explained.
She also noted that students participating in the homecoming court would be given wristbands as students were for class night.
And, as a means to limit capacity in the Greenville High School gymnasium, which holds 1,200 people, the number of tickets being sold for the coronation would be reduced to 500.
“We would also continue our temperature scan and mask requirement for all of our facilities,” Brown-Jones pointed out. “The parade would be an outside event and a permit would be acquired if the city is still allowing permits to be given for those types of gatherings. If not, then we have a plan for a drive-thru at the school similar to what one of our surrounding schools did last year for their presentation of a parade.”
In regard to the tailgate — one of the most anticipated homecoming events and a major fundraiser — Brown-Jones said she collaborated with staff members and other district personnel to produce a list of pros and cons that would come with such an event.
According to Brown-Jones, one pro is that funds raised from the tailgating slots are utilized for student activities, awards and recognition, none of which can be provided by the use of district funds.
Another pro she highlighted was the opportunity for a lot of the alumni to come back and use “spirit week” to provide community service and feedback to the students and schools.
The cons as it pertains to tailgating, however, weighed much more heavily in the eyes of board members.
Brown-Jones recognized as much, pointing out the possibility of the community still gathering in what is usually the tailgating site — a city-owned area that GPSD does not have the rights to and therefore, could not enforce any of GPSD’s mandates or policies if it were utilized.
In her proposal, the usual 105 tailgating slots were reduced to 53 in consideration of the CDC guidelines and as a way to enforce those as much as possible.
Vaughn prefaced her response by acknowledging the ongoing quarantine of Greenville High School.
With the next board meeting scheduled for Sept. 27, Brown-Jones said she wanted to be a little proactive to ensure any time-sensitive, homecoming-related tasks were completed.
“I understand that but we’re in a pandemic right now and tailgating is big. I like it myself,” Vaughn said. “During a time like this, it’s jam packed.”
Vaughn conceded that ultimately, it is a board decision, but for her, the cons of tailgating exceeded the pros.
Trustee Dr. Oliver Johnson felt similarly and believed even with Brown-Jones’ proposed layout having a limitation on tailgating slots, what would likely happen is the combining of groups and the number of tailgaters still being high.
The general consensus was that the risk that lies with allowing a homecoming tailgate was far too great.