The gym at Wrenshall School erupted with sound Tuesday, April 6, as middle and high school students gathered on one of few occasions as a group this school year.

The students kicked off the 2021 homecoming festivities with a dodgeball tournament, filling the gym with laughter and friendly competitions between the different grade levels.

For the first time in a long while, the Wrenshall sounded a little more like what it is supposed to sound like — a school filled with students having fun.

“It’s great to have the kids back. It’s just not a school without the kids here,” teacher and homecoming prom coordinator John Peterson said. “They enjoy being here and it’s nice to get back in the swing of things.”

The COVID-19 pandemic halted the school year in its tracks in March 2020, canceling spring sports, prom and forcing schools to change their graduation ceremonies.

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COVID-19 prevented Wrenshall’s traditional winter homecoming, but Peterson and co-coordinator Aaron Lattu still wanted to plan something for the students.

In addition to the dodgeball tournament, students enjoyed dress-up days and daily competition. The tournament was an exception, however. The other events — like a homecoming candidate obstacle course, “pie-the-candidates” event and a talent show — were livestreamed into students’ classrooms instead of an assembly in the gym.

As more and more people are vaccinated for COVID-19, the school has begun to look and sound a little more like normal. In addition, school officials have begun planning its year-end events like prom and graduation.

Wrenshall junior Joel Lembke waits for the moment to strike during the school's homecoming dodgeball tournament Tuesday, April 6. Jamey Malcomb / Pine Journal
Wrenshall junior Joel Lembke waits for the moment to strike during the school's homecoming dodgeball tournament Tuesday, April 6. Jamey Malcomb / Pine Journal

“It’s definitely a nice thing not to have to be at home and not sit in front of a computer as much,” junior Joel Lembke said. “You can talk with your friends now and you’ve got more activities you can be doing.”

Peterson and Lattu are also planning a modified prom to bring the students a catered dinner and grand march in the school gym and commons area. There won’t be a formal dance, but the pair are also planning post-prom activities that will take place either at the school or at a venue in Duluth.

Wrenshall senior Hailey Tauzell plays dodgeball during the kickoff to the school's 2021 homecoming festivities. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Wrenshall senior Hailey Tauzell plays dodgeball during the kickoff to the school's 2021 homecoming festivities. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

Traditionally, Wrenshall students have had an off-site dance and post-prom activities at the school. COVID-19 is preventing having a dance, but the organizers are trying to make the spring activities and events “as normal as possible,” according to Peterson.

Graduation coordinator Trish Swanson said much of graduation planning is still up in the air. Wrenshall will have an outdoor ceremony because of ongoing renovations in the gym. The time and location are not yet set, but the hope is to have a more personalized ceremony than 2020.

In 2020, graduates attended in cars with their family and were brought up to the front of the crowd on a golf cart that was sanitized between each student’s ride.

Swanson said school officials are meeting in the next couple weeks to finalize graduation details.

Wrenshall sophomore Wesley Ward looks for a target during the school's homecoming dodgeball tournament Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Wrenshall sophomore Wesley Ward looks for a target during the school's homecoming dodgeball tournament Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

Wrenshall freshman Franklin Kuehnow looks for another victim during a dodgeball game against the junior class during homecoming festivities Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Wrenshall freshman Franklin Kuehnow looks for another victim during a dodgeball game against the junior class during homecoming festivities Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

Wrenshall juniors race forward during a dodgeball game against the freshman class Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Wrenshall juniors race forward during a dodgeball game against the freshman class Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)