DANVILLE — The directors of Danville High School’s marching band and show choir said they are determined to do whatever it takes so that their students can practice next month and enter in virtual competitions in the 2020-2021 school year.
Band Director Ryan Krapf and Show Choir Director Jeff Thomas both said Thursday that they already have started work on more specific protocols for summer practice for both band and show choir as well as created surveys that will be sent to band and show choir parents seeking their input.
“I’m glad they’re giving us the opportunity to submit another plan,” Krapf said. “We can be more specific in some areas. We have a couple more things and a couple more processes we can add.
“We’re all trying to think outside of the box,” he said. “I know we have more work to do, and I’m okay with that. We’ll get it done.”
Krapf defended the District 118 school board members who on Wednesday night rejected the first sets of summer practice protocols for the marching band and show choir, both by 4-3 votes. Board President Bill Dobbles, and board members Shannon Schroeder, Lon Henderson and the Rev. Thomas Miller both times cast the dissenting votes.
“They’re between a rock and a hard place,” Krapf said of the board. “We all want the kids to be safe.
“It’s meaningful that our board and administrators allowed our voice to be heard,” he added. “In talking with some of my friends in the education field, the amount of access and discussion we’ve had with our administrators is more than what can be said for other districts.”
Krapf said he received emails from parents Thursday, thanking him “for taking the health and safety of their children into consideration.”
“I hope the kids understand we’re doing this because we want to make sure the environment is safe for everyone,” he said. “One thing we always tell the kids is to be flexible, and this is one time when everybody has to be flexible.”
Show Choir Director Jeff Thomas said, “The vote wasn’t what we wanted or expected, but they want the students to be safe.
“This is a new year with new challenges,” he said. “But we want to give our students a glance of what life used to be like.”
Marching band conditioning sessions have been set to take place Aug. 17-21 and 25-27. Show choir sessions focusing on choreography have been set for Aug. 7-9.
Thomas hopes the school board can meet before Aug. 5 to possibly approve a new show choir summer practice plan because professional choreographers from out of the area will be in Danville on Aug. 7-9.
“Those dates can’t change,” he said. “They were scheduled well before COVID-19 came along.”
Board mulls plans
“It’s very unlikely the extracurricular activities will take the same form as last (school) year, but we’re going to make every effort to give the students the opportunity,” Dobbles said during Wednesday’s school board meeting.
Superintendent Alicia Geddis agreed. “I’m challenging staff to think outside of the box. I don’t want to cancel everything.
“I’ve told everyone to try,” she said. “I am willing to work with you until we get there.”
Both the marching band and show choir plans presented to the board Wednesday night were developed to ensure that students would be able to participate in groups safely while ensuring that both the Illinois State Phase 4 expectations and current Illinois High School Association/Illinois State Board of Education “Return to Play” protocols were met.
The band protocols also included recommendations of the Performing Arts Aerosol Study released July 13 by CBDNA (College Band Directors National Association) and NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations).
Both band and show choir plans followed these protocols: Social distancing would be maintained in outdoor rehearsal spaces that would allow students to be 6-10 feet apart with spots marked. No person-to-person physical contact would be permitted, including no partnered choreography, no physical contact games, no pass-through moves and no hand holding. Choir students and staff would be required to wear masks at all times.
Band and show choir students would arrive to practice sessions in staggered, predetermined groups during a period of 30 minutes at assigned locations. Late students would not be admitted.
Rehearsal times would be maximized to three hours per day per group. Staff would monitor and escort one student at a time to the restroom to enforce social distancing. All food, dinner and snack breaks would be cancelled. No parent volunteers would be used or allowed in the building.
“It’s important we follow the same IHSA guidelines as sports,” Krapf told the board Wednesday. “Many of my colleagues across the state have been sharing what they’re doing.
“We want to put the safety of the kids first and still give them a marching band experience,” he said, explaining that the ends of instruments would be covered with pantyhose or spandex to prevent aerosol particles from escaping. “We designed a plan to be specifically outside.”
Geddis, however, said she was still hesitant about allowing the practices.
“I’ve struggled with this, and he has made every change I’ve asked,” she said of Krapf. “There’s still so much uncertainty; I still have too many concerns. Once the trumpet is blown, it’s (particles) going to travel to the next person.”
The safety measures — such as synthetic reeds, laminated flip music books, mouthpiece sanitizer spray and hand sanitizer — would cost more to provide, according to Krapf.
Krapf said his goal for the Band of Vikings for the 2020-2021 school year was to develop a four- to five-minute routine that the band could videotape and submit for judging in virtual competitions.
“I’m not going to have dads to push equipment around, and students will have to be more responsible for their instruments,” he said. “The travel issue is obviously moot. There will be no travel.
“They can’t wear uniforms because they would have to wash them all the time,” he added.
Krapf told the board, “We need to keep the band program going. We need to keep the kids involved with what they’re passionate about.”
While board member Dr. Randal Ashton called Krapf’s plan “well thought out” and said he was in favor of giving band students the opportunity to practice and perform with the proper safety measures in place, other board members were hesitant.
“I’ve heard parent concerns about having kids in masks out in the heat,” Schroeder said. “What about heat exhaustion? I’m trying to weigh the extra cost versus the benefit.”
Henderson said, “I’m concerned that we keep seeing new (COVID-19) cases. Actually, I’m concerned about our kids coming back to school.”
Ashton said, “If we can’t have these programs, I’m concerned about how we’re going to reopen schools.”
Thomas told the board that the summer practice would focus strictly on choreography.
“There will be no singing, no touching and no playing of instruments,” he said.
However, Geddis casted doubt, saying, “Dancing and singing go hand in hand.”
“In the summer, it’s always choreography first. There’s never any singing,” Thomas said. “We’ve never started vocals in the summer. The students haven’t even learned the songs yet.”
Thomas said it was important for DHS’ award-winning show choirs to continue performing in some fashion.
“Nothing has been canceled because a lot of us are going to do virtual performances,” he said of other show choir programs.
“These kids want to be around each other,” he told the board. “If we can give them some semblance of that, it would be good for their social and emotional well-being.”