By Brenda Meadows
When Forsyth, Hollister and Branson school districts announced they were closing for a couple of weeks due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, graduating seniors fully expected they would finish 2020 doing traditional activities associated with their last year of high school. But it was not to be.
Because COVID-19 had continued to escalate, schools would remain closed, students would do their assignments from home, proms and graduations were cancelled. It didn’t look good for the seniors.
Lana Johnson from Touch of Class Formal Wear in Branson was saddened when she was told there would be no senior proms or graduations. Many of the girls were in tears as they brought their prom dresses back to the store. Johnson spoke with some of the parents and businesses to see if they could could sponsor prom events for the seniors. Schools had not rescheduled their proms and graduations, so she was in the process of planning a summer prom event for them when she learned of plans to reschedule the senior events.
“We understood the schools were dealing with this extremely challenging time, as they are working out at-home learning and all the logistics that go with this,” she said. “Then many schools rolled out their rescheduled dates for prom, which we are thrilled about.”
Branson High School is hosting a complete “Senior Week” beginning July 27, culminating with graduation ceremonies on August 1.
“I think it’s a great time for everyone to come together one last time,” said Branson High School senior Garrett Wicker.
Though seeing how disappointed students were, Garrett’s mom Erin Wicker saw something positive in what the students had experienced.
“I feel like this pandemic, during our kids senior year, has presented a great opportunity to teach our young adults how to respond in the face of adversity,” said Erin Wicker, “I’m excited to see these important events be rescheduled and I look forward to the moment when we can all be together again.”
Hollister High School has scheduled its prom for July 24. The location is still yet to be determined. Graduation is scheduled for Sunday, August 2.
Some students are a little nervous that the dates might change again, but they are proceeding with what they have been told. And so are the parents.
“I am so thankful to live in an area where the schools decided to postpone senior events instead of just cancelling them,” said Edi Muttillo, whose daughter Ali is in the class of 2020. “Graduation is a big deal. Our seniors earned it. I’m glad we are honoring them.”
As of this writing, Forsyth has scheduled its prom on May 9.
But Calley Matthews is not sure it will happen.
“Last I heard prom was supposed to be May 9 and Graduation is May 15, but I’m sure they’re both going to be cancelled,” she said. “Because of the virus and every other school is doing it. Someone said something about Graduation being planned for August. I don’t like that idea because most seniors will be moved out and into colleges.”
Her mom Cassey Matthews said that she hates the idea “that she may possibly miss it if they cancel and don’t reschedule,” she said. “But I understand the thought of keeping everyone safe until this passes.”
Calley listed several special events and traditional senior activities that her class of 2020 did not get to experience.
“I really don’t miss the school work part, but I did miss out on our FFA contests and banquet, and Basketball banquet, and prom and graduation,” Calley said. “As long as we get a prom, I’m happy.”
Forsyth Senior Kaitlyn Bryant said, “At first I didn’t think the virus was a big deal because nobody did. Then when all of the school activities were canceled, I was surprised and I think it ‘settled in’ how weird of a situation this is.”
Kaitlyn doesn’t doesn’t think there are firm dates set for the prom or graduation because no one really knows when the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be over. She is hoping the school will hold off on setting the special senior dance and graduation dates “for the safety of teachers, students and families.”
But by then, Kaitlyn may already be at Missouri State University. She is beginning to think more about special senior moments she may not get to enjoy.
“Graduation and prom are very important to me,” Kaitlyn said. “Now more than ever, because they will probably be the last time I will see all of my classmates.”
For some students, new dates for the proms and graduations do come too late. They will be headed to colleges.
“I am a senior at Branson High School,” said Alli Hawkins. “I am sad that I can not go to my senior prom or graduation. I will miss out on times that most people remember and cherish the rest of their lives.”
Hawkins will be settling in her room at Bluefield College in southwest Virginia.
“I have been awarded a volleyball scholarship to play this fall,” she said. “However, I am extremely blessed and excited to be given the opportunity to further my academic and athletic career and I will be studying business in hopes to create my own. Thank you to all of Branson High School for the best four years of high school academics and sports.”
Hawkins is “extremely happy” that her peers will have the Senior Week at the end of July.
“We are thankful the school administrators were able to set aside a week to celebrate the class of 2020,” she said. “Although it will be hard for me to miss my own graduation, I know I will be alright. There are bigger things in life that I am looking forward to, and missing a senior prom or graduation will not stop me from getting there.”