Although the Monroe-Woodbury School District opened the school year entirely remotely, a group of about 75 seniors gathered on the high school campus Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 8, for an impromptu celebration of Senior Day.
The students, dressed in their “Seniors Class of 2021, did not enter the building. But they did pose outside for group photos.
There was no social distancing.
None wore protective masks.
The school’s security staff noticed the activity on security cameras and then asked the students to leave.
They did without incident.
‘One foolish act’
“To say I am disappointed is an understatement” High School Principal John S. Kaste wrote in a letter to the community. “The district has worked diligently for several months, dedicating many hours and resources to creating a plan that ensures a safe reopening of our schools. It only takes one foolish act such as what we saw at the high school yesterday to eliminate the possibility of welcoming students back to our buildings.
“It has been difficult for all of us since March 12, but these are the necessary sacrifices we must make,” Kaste added. “At this time we are scheduled to have students back in the building on September 22. To accomplish this goal, we must continue to follow guidelines set by the CDC and DOH regarding large gatherings, social distancing and mask wearing. I know that together we can overcome this setback.”
No disciplinary is expected, Superintendent of Schools Elsie Rodriguez said in an interview Thursday morning. Nothing that the students did violated any part of the district’s Student Handbook of Conduct.
But there will be consequences, including the possible delay in opening the school on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Rodriguez said the district has alerted the Orange County Health Department to the incident and is awaiting any recommendations the department may make. That could include testing for COVID-19.
More directly, though, Rodriguez said she plans to meet with some of the students to talk about the impact of their actions, to ask them why they felt they could do what they did.
She also said she understood that COVID “has taken away their senior year, that rite of passage of being a senior.”
But she added the district needed to change the culture that many young people – and young people everywhere – where they do not believe they will be affected by such things as the coronavirus or that they have to play by the rules.
“We are in unprecedented times,” the superintendent said. “I’m disappointed; I expected better of them.
“Real change comes with conversation,” she added, “even if those conversations are difficult.”