Update for End of Year Senior Events

With spring quickly approaching, uncertainty lingers regarding the annual senior events such as the prom, graduation, and others due to COVID-19 guidelines. However, Malvern’s faculty is thinking creatively.

Update+for+End+of+Year+Senior+Events

Matt Powers, Senior Writer & Editor

After last year’s prom cancellation because of lockdown restrictions, Dr. James Fry, Director of Student Life, and Mr. Ron Algeo, Assistant Head of School for Student Leadership, are working through many possibilities to deliver the seniors safe events this spring.

“We would love to have some kind of prom, especially for the seniors because they didn’t have the opportunity last year with COVID taking over the whole spring,” Fry said. “Right now, the tentative date is May 8 and it’s something that would be hosted on campus. We’re also exploring the idea of having guests, but that also opens up things like temperature checks and medical waivers along with the distancing and masks.”

Head of School Rev. Donald F. Reilly O.S.A. added, “The Leadership Team and I want the Class of 2021 to celebrate all of the customary end-of-senior-year events in the traditional manner in which they have been celebrated in the past. We anticipate that the Prom, Senior Tribute, Senior Mother/Son Mass and Dinner, and Graduation will both celebrate the accomplishments of the Class and commission our fellow friars into the next chapter of their education with the passion, spirit of service, and Brotherhood they enjoyed these past years.”

Mrs. Korin Folan, school counselor and member of the Caritas Committee, believes that allowing guests is a concern, but acknowledges that the Caritas Committee will do everything in their power to make it happen.

“For prom, I think we are going to have to get creative because you’re intermixing people,” Folan said. “Right now we try to keep our bubble at Malvern and don’t allow visitors, so I think having guests is going to be a concern, but we’re going to do our best.”

If Malvern were to host a prom, one of the biggest challenges would be contact tracing every student in case of an outbreak. Algeo notes that Malvern has a massive responsibility in their guests’ safety, and an outbreak would lead to confusion among many schools.

“We have some great advantages and disadvantages of being a single-sex school. If you want to have girls on campus as dates, that means they’re coming from all schools,” Algeo said. “We have a huge responsibility because if there were to be a breakout that also impacts all those other schools.”

Since the prom is such a tricky problem to solve, Algeo and Fry have been brainstorming different ideas and exploring the possibility of bringing these ideas to reality in the spring.

Algeo mentioned one potential plan saying, “One idea is if the students came with their guests, everybody got checked in with health wavers and masks on. They would be seated outside in the courtyard with all the tables spread out. Once they’re seated, their masks could come off and everyone could eat dinner. Maybe there could be a band playing background music or a video with pictures of the seniors.”

Algeo and Fry have been meeting regularly with the seniors to hear their opinions, suggestions, and requests.

“They [the seniors] may want it to be less formal, like a luau with food trucks and games like baggo,” Algeo stated. “So we’re going to work with the students to see what the possibilities are and how we can maintain that level of safety because we don’t want anybody quarantined after it’s over.”

As emphasized by Algeo above, safety remains the top priority when holding a large event during a pandemic. The last thing they want is the seniors to have to quarantine for multiple weeks in May during their final month at Malvern.

“We need to make sure that everyone is healthy and has a good experience,” Fry said. “We want to have an event where nobody gets sick and nobody gets hurt.”

In addition to prom, Fry has been focused on the talent show. Back in December, the event was postponed because Malvern’s campus was shut down and all the students and faculty members were quarantined before the holidays. 

Fry has been working with Student Council in hopes of finding an ideal place to hold the event since the theater in the Duffy Arts Center can only accommodate approximately one grade due to social distancing guidelines.

“Nothing has been definitely set yet as far as the date, but I know Student Council has been trying to look at how we can have the event. They’re looking at different spots we would be able to hold it at Malvern such as indoors, outdoors, or on the football field,” Fry said.

As of February, there have been no final decisions made yet on the talent show. However, Fry is committed to holding the event and encourages students to reach out if they have any ideas. He understands that the talent show is one of Malvern’s most cherished traditions and strives to host it this spring.

“I think it [the talent show] is one of the few times where the entire school can be in the same space and really support the Brotherhood from a different perspective,” Fry said. “There’s a magical energy in the theater and I see it as an opportunity when we can all laugh, share memories, and come together for the “No Nay Never.” It’s a nice way to send everyone off for the holidays.”

With regard to graduation, Algeo believes last year’s event was an opportunity for Malvern to be creative under rigid pandemic restrictions. 

“The end of last year was dreadful for so many people and such a tough thing to go through, but it was also a chance for us to be creative about how we can celebrate seniors under tight pandemic restrictions,” Algeo said. “We were able to come up with something, so we know in the worst-case scenario, we could have the graduation outdoors and replicate what we did last year.”

Despite the high COVID-19 case total, graduation was held outside and the class of 2020 was split into two groups. There was social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitizing before attendees sat down and after they left. 

This year, Algeo is confident they will be able to have the entire senior class together with their parents and still create a safe environment.

“Our goal is to be able to have more than just two guests for each kid,” Algeo said. “We have space, and with the numbers going down with vaccines increasing, we’re optimistic that we could potentially have more people together than just the limited numbers.”

Mr. Paul Simpson, college counselor and member of the Caritas Committee, believes that last year’s challenges due to the pandemic give Malvern an advantage when it comes to planning graduation.

“I think we now have a better understanding of what the limitations are and the possibilities after last year,” Simpson said. “It’s not perfect, it’s not the way you would have drawn it up a year ago, but I feel pretty good that we’re able to celebrate our students and have their accomplishments recognized at graduation.”

Additionally, Simpson recognizes that the COVID-19 vaccine has recently been released, and as more faculty members get vaccinated, the plan for graduation will become more clear. 

“With the vaccine, I think everyone on campus is going to feel a lot better about the situation and have a better understanding of what graduation could look like,” Simpson said.

The annual breakfast, which typically takes place in May, is another event that is being reevaluated. Algeo believes that, at the very least, they can carry out a similar format as last year.

“Father Reilly did a really nice job of having mass outside in the quad last year with tables all spread out so the seniors were able to come to that event with their mothers,” Algeo said. “They had a mass and were given boxed meals to eat there or take with them. It was spread out and safe so I think we can pull that off again this year.”

Father Reilly, along with other school leaders, see tremendous value in the Senior Mother/Son Mass and Dinner and have already set a date and time for the Class of 2021.

“The Senior Mother/Son Mass and Dinner, weather permitting, will be held in the Quad on June 6 at 5:00pm,” Reilly said. “This gathering is always a special occasion for the graduating class and their mothers.”

With the vaccine being distributed at high rates and daily case total dropping, there is no telling what our life will look like in a few months. However, Malvern’s school leaders will do their best to carry out the traditional end of year senior events for the Class of 2021.