SPPS says no to in-person spring events, citing COVID-19 concerns

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The auditorium of Highland Park High School was empty for the practice of the spring performance of Matilda.

Students were hoping to have their families in the audience.

Students were also hoping to have prom, but the district is saying no to that as well.

"It’s disappointing we didn’t get one last year as well, and we’re told prom is kind of like a right of passage," senior Katie Evans said. "So it’s disappointing."

Families had heard over the weekend these decisions may be coming. Late Wednesday, St. Paul Public Schools confirmed its high schools will not be scheduling field trips, hosting in-person honors nights or proms.

"The health and wellness of our students and staff remains our top priority," said Kevin Burns, a district spokesman.

When asked why the largest school district in the state, Anoka-Hennepin can hold prom but St. Paul has decided not to, Burns said, "I can’t speak for any other district. What I can speak to is that the health and safety is a priority of St. Paul Public Schools, and the last thing we want is anything that would resemble a super spreader event. That’s just not who we are in terms of our values or our priorities for our students and staff health and wellness."

Burns says school-based activities will still be allowed and will be live-streamed, as spectators will not be allowed to attend indoor events.

Sue Gustad’s daughter is in theater.

"It’s frustrating. It seems like it’s arbitrary," she said. "It’s heartbreaking."

She says the decision is arbitrary because some events are continuing, like athletics.

"The reason given that sports are going forward is the existence of the Minnesota State High School League and statewide standards," she said. "And all these activities, whether arts activities or end-of-year activities are just as important."

Gustad is hopeful if restrictions are loosened by Gov. Tim Walz, which he hinted could happen later this week or next, changes can be considered by the district.

"There’s little time left, let’s give these seniors their landmark events," Gustad said. "Let’s be sensible, let’s look at the data, the protocols. Let’s follow them and let’s go ahead."