As local schools gear up for what could be an uncertain start to the 2020-2021 academic year, the community at Holly Pond has saddled up to make sure that, whatever happens next in this touch-and-go era of the coronavirus pandemic, students will be prepared.

Thanks to the efforts of school guidance counselor Karen Rowell and a handful of local sponsors, high school students at Holly Pond will have the option to sport some bespoke face masks that show a little school spirit when the doors open on Aug. 20. Sporting a prancing Bronco mascot against an all-black background, the masks aren’t the only ones students will be required to wear — but they’ll be free to anyone who wants to, starting from day one.

“It’s not a dress code or specific mask requirement, and students can wear whatever approved mask they want,” explained Rowell. “It’s more of a school spirit thing to lift our kids up. Their school is important to them, perhaps now more than ever, and we had some wonderful response from the community to pitch in and recognize that. We were able to raise about $1,000 to help get these Holly Pond masks for the students, along with a ‘Bronco Strong’ bag for each student that will contain some essential things they might need later on.”

The masks and bags are both aimed at making the best of an extraordinary situation as students return to a new and unfamiliar set of guidelines imposed to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. While no one can forecast how the start of the semester will go, a spike in cases could mean a return to remote, online-based learning at some point — and the bags come with a folder packed with information about how to proceed if that occurs.

“It contains information for teachers’ contacts, accessing grades, and just about anything else they might need to help move smoothly through their educational environment, whether that’s on campus or online,” she said. “Each student will have a message pertinent to their grade level from me — because different grades need different things. The idea is to help smooth any transitions they might encounter in the fall, in the event we do face changes that we can’t predict right now.”

Face masks may not have been anyone’s idea of an ideal canvas for making a fashion statement until 2020 came along, but Rowell said having something tailored to Holly Pond’s galloping mascot gives students a fun way to go above and beyond basic baby blue. A couple of seniors even helped pick out the colors, opting for a classic white-on black look rather than the school’s typical green and gold — which, depending on your outfit, might not necessarily match up with every wardrobe.

“Some kids might feel a little intimidated with the masks they have, and of course we’re already looking for anything we can do to help make our school and our community safer,” she said. “When I presented my plan for this to the community, they jumped on it and helped get it done.

“I especially want to thank Peoples Bank, Jet-Pep, Paula Miller, Walmart Distribution, and Traditions Bank. Their donations made it possible to get masks for each student from grades 9-12. And thanks also to our Holly Pond SGA for purchasing the bags, and providing other items for our students. Because of their efforts, no student will need to buy a mask when they come back to school, and the ones we have will be something just a little extra to show off our school pride.”

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