BHS Leadership Considers Virtual Options for Spirit Week

Every year in late October or early November, Berkeley High School (BHS) Spirit Week concludes in an energized, intoxicated, and often violent explosion of red and gold: Rally Day. This year, with Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) operating online only, Rally Day did not occur.

 Director of Student Activities John Villavicencio explained that he made this decision after a discussion over the summer he had with senior members of the BHS Leadership team. He said, “Some of the hope was like, hey, let’s not try to do something now, because maybe things will improve and there will be at least a better chance to host some kind of Spirit Week when we get back to campus.” However, Villavicencio acknowledged that by taking this wait-and-see approach, BHS Leadership may have “missed an opportunity to maybe do something in October.” 

The future of this modified Rally Day hinges on two factors: the timeline of returning to school in-person and student enthusiasm for the event. According to senior Class President Charlotte Thornton, one option on the table is a “virtual spirit week in late January,” although this would not be intended to replace Spirit Week in the case that students do end up returning to school. “There would just be both,” said Thornton. Some of the inspiration for a virtual Spirit Week has come from other schools’ plans.

Villavicencio has said that he has often seen “a mix of pre-recorded things and performances.” He envisions BHS doing this as well. “Maybe there’s a performance from some Dance Production students who put together a video, and they edit it themselves and submit it,” Villavicencio explained. Groups being creative and adding their own elements to these virtual events would be key to making them successful.

One concern is the possibility that this format wouldn’t be conducive to student participation. Earlier this semester, a video assembly was produced, and the student body’s interaction with it was low, according to Villavicencio. Members of leadership involved in the process are worried that this could repeat with a virtual Spirit Week. Villavicencio said that from what he’s seen, “It didn’t seem clear that people wanted a virtual Spirit Week, or even that people wanted to try to plan a virtual Spirit Week.” He added, “I am hesitant to put a lot of effort into it if student leaders aren’t interested in it, because if a student doesn’t buy into planning for it, then it does make it hard to try to engage the rest of the student body.” Thornton does not believe a virtual option is a good idea, and said, “I would either prefer to do nothing for Spirit Week, or do it in person,” adding that, “I have a vision of rally day in my head, and it’s not on Zoom.” 

However, if an in-person Spirit Week were to happen, it would likely not be business as usual. Villavicencio said that he wasn’t sure how it would work if, “school was distanced, and like ten people in a classroom, and that’d be weird to have some kind of Spirit Week and Red and Gold Day.” Thornton added, “We’re such a big group of people, how would that even work with 3,500 people?”

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