Traditional homecoming cancelled, but some Cal students party on

Groups of students receive harsh criticism after gathering for fake homecoming, or FOCO, festivities that didn’t abide by proper health guidelines


Photo courtesy of Hana Snyder

Junior Hana Snyder sent this email to Superintendent Dr. John Malloy and Cal High Principal Megan Keefer outlining her concerns about the FOCO event attended by some students on Oct. 24.

For the past seven months, students’ Instagram feeds have been devoid of photos with large gatherings because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

But on Oct. 24, photos of a large “fake homecoming,” or FOCO, event began to surface on social media, showcasing a gathering of more than 20 Cal High students in formal dresses and suits to mimic a typical homecoming experience.

The event, which featured no masks or social distancing, was organized in a student’s backyard with parental supervision, and has been garnering community outrage during the past week.

“None of it was acceptable,” junior Hana Snyder said. “I don’t think this kind of behavior should be encouraged at all.”

Added senior Kaitlyn Perry, “I couldn’t believe that this occurred with Cal students. The juniors [at FOCO] were acting very nonchalant about what they were doing. It’s just disrespectful.”

With San Ramon Valley Unified School District schools set to reopen in a hybrid model in just two months, the FOCO event has left students and families concerned about whether having students back on campus, even if only part time, will be a safe environment.

“Coming back to school in January seems a bit unrealistic, seeing that all these kids don’t take it seriously,” Snyder said. “Watching people take part in activities that risk other people’s safety and then having those same kids return to campus makes me uncomfortable.”

Snyder shared her thoughts with Principal Megan Keefer and Superintendent Dr. John Malloy in an email, but Keefer said that since the event was not an official school activity or on Cal’s campus, not much could be done.  

“I want our teachers, students, and families to feel that when they come back on campus, they’re safe,” Keefer said. “Those pictures [of FOCO] did the opposite of instilling confidence. It further instilled doubt that we can do this.”

Several students who attended the FOCO event declined to comment for this story.

Keefer said she and Cal’s administrative team are working hard to ensure a safe return to campus. Before families choose to declare whether they will remain remote or go hybrid from Nov. 13-20, Keefer plans to send a video to families showing exactly what a hybrid model will look like in the hallways, classrooms, bathrooms, during lunch, and at pickups/drop-offs.

In addition, the video will outline a strict no-tolerance policy for any student who decides to break any of the rules, Keefer said.

“Once we are on campus, [ensuring student safety] is my job,” Keefer said. “I can’t have students on campus who choose to jeopardize the safety of others. That is a fact.”

Senior Maddie Harris is optimistic that she will feel safe on campus with the planned safety precautions.

“Having masks and enforced distance rules would make me feel safe enough to return,” Harris said. “[FOCO] itself doesn’t make me nervous for hybrid learning, I keep my distance from those kinds of people at all costs.”

But Harris said she is concerned that her last semester of high school will potentially be put on the line if events like this keep happening. She’s worried that irresponsible high school students could cause unforeseen complications. 

Perry agrees with these sentiments.

“As a senior it’s very disappointing not having the things we used to get one last time,” Perry said. “But I’d rather miss out on that stuff than put my parents or others in danger.”

While the main large FOCO gathering consisted of mostly juniors, students in other grade levels took to their own smaller fake homecoming parties of six to seven people, gatherings that included leadership students and elected leadership officials.

“We are aware of the FOCO events that have taken place off-campus recently,” wrote leadership adviser Ross Dautel in an email to The Californian. “We plan on engaging in important, meaningful discussions with each member of our program to reiterate the crucial role we all play in guaranteeing the safe return to campus for the entire Grizzly Family.”

Dautel said students will be able to participate in a modified homecoming drive-thru event in early January. It will be hosted by leadership’s CHS Special Teams and Community Special Teams committees.

“We are confident this event will serve as a safe, spirited, and effective way for our students to reconnect with Cal High,” Dautel wrote.

In the future, Keefer hopes that students consider the fact that they are all in this together as a school community.

“If we can all do this together for a short amount of time, there’s such a great benefit going forward,” Keefer said. “Your actions and my actions affect everyone [around us].”