Homecoming 2020 events for Eastern Mennonite School, originally scheduled for October 16-18, have been significantly cut back or cancelled due to ongoing risks and limitations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s disappointing to see another aspect of our community life affected, but it’s the right thing to do,” says Andrea Wenger, director of advancement. “Safety of our students, families and alumni is of utmost importance, and limiting gatherings is the best way to ensure that.”
Homecoming Weekend typically includes meals, music, athletic competition, building tours, worship and other events to engage current students, families, faculty, staff and alumni.
Alumni award winners are recognized during the weekend at a meal and program, and presented with gifts celebrating their accomplishments and contributions. This year, alumni award winners will be announced as usual in early August, but their reflections and input will be shared digitally.
Homecoming is also a time when the current students perform the music they have rehearsed over the fall at a concert, and the previous year’s Touring Choir gets to sing together again and then share during Sunday morning worship. An indoor concert and worship service is out of the question this, given the dangers of singing in large groups, so the Saturday evening concert and Sunday morning worship are cancelled. If some sort of virtual or outdoor concert becomes feasible that weekend, the school will promote that closer to the time. [See a video of Jared Stutzman, choral director and music teacher, talking with students about science, safety and concerts.]
Five-year class reunions are also an important part of the weekend with class hosts planning one, two or even three events in area homes, restaurants and parks. Dozens of people come from out of state, rekindling decades-old friendships. This year, graduation years ending in a 5 or 0 were scheduled to have reunions.
Typically, EMHS class reunions are planned by class members; the school facilitates communication among classmates as requested and provides free meeting space at the school if desired. This year, EMS will not provide school space for gatherings, and is encouraging class groups to consider gathering during next year’s EMS Homecoming Weekend with other classes, or another time when the pandemic danger has passed.
A Friday evening Fan Appreciation Meal on the lawn, hosted by the Booster Club, drew more than 375 people last year before the boys varsity soccer game. This year, the hope had been to pack the gym for a girls varsity volleyball match after that meal.
Since the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) guidelines for fall athletics are still being discerned, final details are not available regarding athletic events. EMS is scheduled to play volleyball Friday evening and soccer on Saturday afternoon. If soccer happens on Saturday, a picnic lunch for spectators may be appropriate outside with facial coverings where physical distancing isn’t possible.
Videos featuring alumni award winners and details on possible music concert and athletic events will be posted in October. Read an article about how EMS plans to have every student in the school every day this fall.