Reimagining Spirit Week with COVID-19

Each year, ORHS students look forward to participating in some of Oyster River’s most time honored traditions: spirit week, the pep rally, and field day, which have always been an important way to establish a sense of school pride early on in the year. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, instead of packing the bleachers tight and cheering for their class to win musical chairs and tug of war, students will hopefully be participating in a variety of socially distant in-person activities later this year, hosted by the high school’s Student Athletic Leadership Team (SALT). There are no set plans yet, but due to the numerous challenges with remote learning, students and staff have found it to be important to have some sort of spirit week this year.

The initiative to have some sort of spirit week this year was led by SALT. No one has ruled out the possibility of having a more traditional spirit week in the spring, but, initially, SALT discussed having a series of virtual events to bring a sense of community to remote learning. While they aren’t totally scrapping this idea, they have realized the most meaningful thing would happen in person – but not under the traditional name of Spirit Week. “With the name Spirit Week attached to it, I feel like a lot of people are starting to have this nostalgia of, ‘we don’t want to do it because it’s not going to be what we want it to be. It’s not going to be the half day of classes, it’s not going to be the pep rally and field day,’” said Nicole Casimiro, SALT advisor and Special Education teacher at ORHS. “People are saying they don’t want to dress up if they’re just on their computer screens, and asking what’s the point of doing that, so we have definitely been thinking of ways to revamp the entire thought process.”

SALT had some ideas to have a virtual spirit week, and sent out a survey to advisories on October 20 to gauge student’s opinions and interest on that. Generally, students weren’t opposed to the idea, but the majority answered “maybe,” when asked if they would participate in different days or not. “It’s not totally scrapped but we are definitely in a space where we are asking: how do we get people excited about this and really invested in doing this?” said Casimiro.

In order to get people more excited and invested, SALT is hoping to host some in person activities at ORHS, similar to what the freshman class was able to do a couple weeks ago. To learn more about those socially distantanced activities, read “9th Graders Head to ORHS for Day of Outdoor Team Bonding,” written by Holly Reid. 

Casimiro explained what some of these ideas may look like. “We are trying to think of some socially distanced games we could do. We could do a relay, we could have someone blindfolded with an egg and someone else has to direct them where to go. Games like that that you can do as socially distant as possible. Obviously, we couldn’t do tug of war, because we would be too close, but we’ve really just thrown out a bunch of ideas, like all those games that you see that would happen during the Pep Rally that we could potentially do without being in such close contact with people.” 

Other ideas also included having a certain number of kids at school at a time to see which class could build the biggest snowman over the course of a week. SALT also suggested doing some fun Kahoots, which could be done in person or online. Additionally, “an idea we threw around was a competition throughout the whole year, where there’s a grade that has participated the most who would win,” said Ella Stasko (‘21), a member of SALT. 

One thing that Maggie Sperry (‘21) suggested, after taking the survey and thinking about the different options, was, “to try to do both. I think the in person one would be a great idea, but the scenario may be different because it had to be socially distant. I think if we do that, we could also do the costumes online too, so it’s for everyone to get involved, especially if you don’t feel as comfortable going into school and doing things.”

No matter what happens this year, everyone involved has realized something needs to happen, no matter how it looks. “It really helps mentally, and in general, to feel like you belong to something. It’s something we all have in common. We all go to Oyster River: that is a part of our identities right now. And to be in this weird limbo, like yeah, we go there, yeah, I’m attending classes there, but I’m not there. We don’t feel a part of it, but events and functions and things like that help the school feel more than a school,” said Stasko.

Casimiro agreed, saying, “It’s just important to get everyone together and to remember that we are a school community and not just individuals who are behind a computer screen and that you have teachers that are here for you. Even though we are separate, we are this community that is together and trying to get through a really difficult time in the best way possible through supporting each other.”

While SALT is hoping to get something together soon, having a version of spirit week in the spring is still a possibility. “It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen in the spring because it would be amazing if we could have spirit week that we would usually have in the fall in the spring,” said Stasko.

No matter what it looks like, SALT wants everyone to feel comfortable participating in whatever idea comes to fruition. Stasko said, “We aren’t going to force anyone to participate. Forced fun really isn’t fun most of the time, so we want people to want to participate and feel comfortable voicing their opinions.”

Additionally, SALT also hopes that students realize how important these sorts of events are. Casimiro said, “We want to bring some normalcy back to school and have kids that are interacting in a way that isn’t academic or school based. The best thing about high school is the social interactions that you have with other people, and everyone is missing out on that right now, so we hope we can find a way to bring some sort of fun, even for a couple hours to forget we are in this pandemic.”

Artwork by Dora Bowden