BY ISABELLE BRAUN
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced Monday that all gatherings were to be restricted to less than 50 people.
Because of this, events throughout the state and country have been canceled, and students and organizations throughout Hays USD 489 — the public school system in Hays — and the Hays community are feeling these effects.
Choir, orchestra and band concerts, forensics tournaments, spring plays, collegiate and high school international DECA, state Science Olympiad, state journalism contests, and even high school yearbooks are just some of the events grades K-12 and above are dealing with that have been canceled or reconfigured with the new regulations caused by the spread of COVID-19.
“A little over a week ago, I thought the coronavirus was on the decline and was just a distant problem,” Hays High instructor Alex Underwood said. “Last Wednesday, I read an article published on medium.com that made the case for this being a life-disrupting, major social problem. It was then that I started forecasting what would be happening and how that would affect me and my work.”
Underwood works with the Hays High Chamber Singers and choir, and the remainder of their semester was to be filled with contests and events for the community to enjoy.
“In April, we had contest season, which involved solos, small ensembles and large ensembles performing for judges in Manhattan on April 4, Colby on April 16 and Emporia on April 25,” Underwood said. “We also had a masterclass scheduled with brilliant mezzo-soprano, Katelyn Mattson-Levy, and an arts recital and tea to showcase the solos for our hometown audience. The other project was an a cappella competition.”
Underwood is not the only instructor facing these changes. Science Olympiad and state forensics have been canceled, with students who have competed for years not being able to complete their senior year.
“I was going to participate in Anatomy and Physiology, Designer Genes, Experimental Design, Forensics and Protein Modeling,” Hays High senior Natalie Taylor said. “I am really upset about the cancellation because the state tournament is usually the most fun as a team, and for me, it would’ve been the last Science Olympiad tournament since seventh grade that I would be able to participate in.”
The KSPA state journalism contest was set to take place at the University of Kansas this spring, with students competing on-site to win titles in their divisions. Now, that contest is set to be online only.
In comparison to other organizations, Hays High instructor Jessica Augustine is grateful for the switch to online as her students will still be able to compete. But journalism at the high school level is set to take on changes in other ways.
At Hays High, journalism students participate daily in assuring their classmates and community members are educated throughout the year. They pride themselves on being a historical record for generations to come, and under the direction of their first-year teacher at Hays High, they will have to make changes accordingly.
“Right now, yearbook is actually on target with our deadlines, and our next deadline involves academics pages, for which we have photos and can get content – although those interviews will need to be done safely through email, phone or text,” Augustine said. “However, with the cancellation of school, that includes the cancellation of spring activities and spring sports, so we will need to make adjustments to the book to account for that.
“Newspaper obviously may not have its last two print issues – as there will be no one at school to distribute it to – but their online site will be important for disseminating information and for keeping students connected to Hays High while they are away from the building.”
Organizations throughout the community are making adjustments under unprecedented circumstances. While events are canceled, instructors are staying hopeful and wishing their students luck in these challenging times.
“I think they (the regulations) are necessary for the well-being of our society,” Underwood said. “And honestly, I hope they are enough. I’m heartbroken, of course, that I don’t get to teach the Bach fugue I was planning on, or watch my students be amazingly successful at contest. I don’t get to watch them struggle to work together and come up with super fun a cappella sets. I don’t get to watch the seniors wrap up the end of their high school careers. This is a huge tragedy. But again, if that is the worst of it, I think we will be lucky.”