McLean reinstates COVID-safe, in-person school spirit events

McLean returns to tradition with a COVID-safe school spirit week leading up to Homecoming


Sandra Cheng

STILL IN SESSION – McLean is still hosting football games and dances to raise morale and boost school spirit. Despite COVID procedures, students can still have fun at events, where they can hang out with friends and enjoy what McLean has to offer.

For many McLean students, returning to in-person school means uncertainty in coming back to an environment that has been largely unoccupied for a year. For McLean’s Leadership class, in-person school means a return to tradition and a chance to restart school-wide events and reinvigorate school spirit.

“Lots of kids have [already] gotten involved in the spirit days, which you can do no matter what,” Leadership teacher Karen McNamara said. “We’ve had many students come to the games and [participate] in the themed days. The lunch games have been going well; we’ve had many kids participate in those.”

This week is especially important for the Leadership class as it leads up to one of McLean’s biggest social events: the homecoming dance. To raise anticipation for the dance, Leadership students have planned to have a different “themed” spirit day for each day of the week before homecoming.

“The spirit days are a fun way for the classes to get together and show camaraderie after coming out of lockdown,” senior Julia Tan said. “My favorite day was ‘Sleepy Monday’ because I enjoyed coming to school in comfortable clothes.”

Despite McLean’s social events, students must still abide by Fairfax County’s COVID procedures when participating in these activities. The risk of the pandemic is still prevalent, and the county wants students to be safe while also showcasing their school spirit.

“For anything that is an indoor school event, we are following FCPS’s guidelines where students are required to wear a mask and socially distance,” McNamara said. “If you’re outside [for an event], you’re not required to wear a mask.”

For social gatherings at school, FCPS has stated that students and staff must maintain a 3 to 6 feet distance and must all wear their masks indoors. For outdoor gatherings, fully vaccinated students are not required to wear a mask, and unvaccinated students are recommended to wear a mask. McLean has used these guidelines to make many events, such as homecoming, more safe.

“We are following FCPS’s guidelines [for outdoor gatherings] and asking [Leadership] to hold dances outside,” principal Ellen Reilly said. “Some schools are going hybrid but we’re opting to go totally outside because we have a very nice space for it.”

While spirit days and other events are underway, McLean staff will occasionally run into some difficulty when it comes to enforcing COVID procedures, especially when students are excited to interact with their friends during dances or games again. Overall, McLean students have been very receptive to adhering to safety protocols put in place by the county.

“There are a lot of students who need reminders to wear their masks over their faces,” McNamara said. “Besides that, many students have been good about wearing their masks and socially distancing themselves.”

Leadership has also had to heavily consider how to boost and maintain school spirit despite COVID protocols keeping people apart. They had to figure out a solution that guaranteed that students are engaged during events while also making safe and smart decisions.

“It’s just a lot more to think about,” McNamara said. “You’re not allowed to play some games and/or share certain items. You just have to be safer, but overall, [events] have been going well.”

Despite these limitations, there are many upcoming events that students can look forward to attending.

“The car parade is a new [event] that we’ve added and it is a perfectly safe, socially distanced activity,” McNamara said. “There’s the tailgate before the game at 5:30, there’s homecoming court announcements during halftime, and we’ve got the dance on Saturday.”

Homecoming is one of the biggest events of the week, with many students attending the dance even though it’s outside. Almost 700 homecoming tickets have been sold, guaranteeing that the dance will be a night to remember.

“I’m looking forward to dancing, taking pictures, and meeting with friends,” senior Malika Neou said. “I find myself studying frequently, so going to this dance will be very fun for me.”

Overall, despite quarantine putting a pause on many events, McLean is ready to get back on track and promote school spirit.

“We’re going to keep trying to do the things the kids want to do,” McNamara said. “I’m looking forward to the other cool activities we get to do in the future where everyone can relax and have fun.”