Virus means virtual coronation, no dance for MHS homecoming

Changes are aimed at keeping COVID-19 in check

The 'M' burns as the 2019 Mitchell High School homecoming royalty stands for a photo last year in the school's parking lot. The traditional Burning of the M will not take place this year due to restrictions put on the annual event due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Other changes to homecoming this year include a virtual coronation ceremony and no dance being held. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Mitchell High School homecoming week will see some changes this year in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Joe Graves, superintendent of the Mitchell School District, released a letter to students, staff and district patrons Friday morning outlining some of the changes he is authorizing to the annual week of district pride and celebration. The changes come as part of a continued effort to keep staff, students and community safe from the respiratory disease.

“In order to give our schools the best possible chance to have students learning in our classrooms, and performing in our gymnasiums and on our stage floors, I am making the unfortunate decision to reduce the extent of homecoming activities,” Graves wrote in the message.

Those decisions include:

  • Spirit Day themes and costumes will still require that students wear masks.

  • Coronation will be virtual. Members of the homecoming court, students participating in skits, senior choir, participating cheerleaders, members of these students’ immediate family and school staff and student council members managing the event will be the only people eligible to attend coronation. The event will be streamed virtually for anyone else who wishes to observe it. The event is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Monday. The stream can be found at the MHS website and pressing the Homecoming Information button and then the Coronation button. The stream will become live at 7 p.m.

  • The Burning of the M will not be held this year.

  • Volleyball, soccer, tennis, football, marching band, golf and cross country events will be held as scheduled, unless subsequent events prevent such, but with Tier 2 restrictions in place.

  • The Powder Puff football game will not be played this year.

  • The football game against Brookings will be the final homecoming week activity. The game will take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Joe Quintal Field.

  • There will be no homecoming dance held this year.

Graves said the measures are being taken after observing other schools deal with apparent COVID-19 spikes after events like homecoming. Some South Dakota schools have had to delay all homecoming activities due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in their communities.
“The responsibility for two recent interruptions of school, with students physically present in the building, and outright cancellations of activity programs in our state are being ascribed to recent homecoming activities in those school districts,” Graves said. “While these conclusions can only be based on anecdotal evidence, they are based on some reasonable thought processes.”


He said some of the decisions affecting activities are being made to better accommodate district policies, such as required social distancing.

“I have based the adjustments to our activities on the difficulties of social distancing in each and the priorities set out above,” Graves wrote.

Graves noted that the school year began with three priorities: protecting the students and staff to the maximum extent possible from COVID-19, holding school with students and staff physically in the school building because doing so provides the best educational opportunities for students and launching the district’s full scope of extracurricular activities. Those activities include fine arts, sports and academic competitions.

The changes to homecoming week will no doubt be a let down for some, but it’s important to remember the goals established at the outset of the school year and the importance of keeping students in the classroom, where the educational experience is best, he said.

“I apologize for the fact that some of these decisions are, no doubt, disappointing to many of you,” Graves wrote. “I hope you can understand the need to make some sacrifices in pursuit of higher priorities.”

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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