Subject: High School Forensic Speech

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Dear High School Speech Coach:

I hope this message finds you well as we begin one of the most extraordinary school years of our lives. 

If your school has not yet renewed dues in the WHSFA, we sent an email notice yesterday.

Advocacy GraphicWhile I understand Forensic Speech is probably far from things you are thinking about immediately as the new school year is upon us, we've received some inquiries, so I wanted to share with our entire community what we are planning as of right now. As you can imagine, with schools just trying to figure out how to best serve the daily instructional needs of students, extracurricular activities are not in the forefront of administrators' minds, even though we do know how important activities like forensics are to the vitality of educating the whole student. To that end, a month ago, we sent advocacy materials to all superintendents/district administrators (see graphic to the right), letting them know the importance of offering forensic activities, and how our virtual programming allows that to happen in a safe manner amidst the pandemic. 

We acknowledge that most schools have determined approaches for keeping classroom spaces as safe and healthy as possible for enrolled students, but do not have provisions for bringing guests into your buildings, especially to the extent that a forensic speech festival utilizes classrooms with students and adjudicators moving among rooms, sitting in common spaces (such as cafeterias), and crowding spaces.  After consultation with insurance brokers, risk management experts, and school administrators, WHSFA therefore made the decision to take the entire 2020-21 school year online for our official festivals.  That way, we can plan ahead with the technology and logistics needed to make that happen, as well as to provide guidance for coaches, like yourself, on how to best work with your students to record videos of presentations, either face-to-face, in-person, or via videoconference such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, etc. We're excited to learn a great deal from holding our one-act theatre season online this fall, and we will be able to apply what we learn to sharing coaching advice for Play Acting and Group Interpretive Reading!

In October, our Speech Advisory Committee will meet to discuss ideas for best practices pertaining to recording student presentations, so we can issue guidance by early November; plenty of time for you to adapt to working with your students for the upcoming season.  At that time, we'll also share full details of what to expect with subdistrict and district festivals, which will be held as statewide events (rather than by regions, which isn't necessary when we're online). The current plan is to have a window of dates in which coaches can submit videos, and a window of time in which they will be adjudicated, except for Extemporaneous Speech and Impromptu, which will be held as live/synchronous contests at specific times (we'll set a few live sessions for those).  We're also planning online Initial Speech Adjudicator Training, and renewal training will continue in a fully online, asynchronous format as it's been for the past several years.

We'll keep you informed throughout the fall semester as determinations are made for the spring season, so stay tuned, and don't hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Jacobi portraitIn solidarity for inspiring young people,

Adam Signature

Adam Jacobi, Executive Director
Wisconsin High School Forensic Association

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Wisconsin High School Forensic Association
1501 Saint Andrew St, Suite C200
La Crosse, WI 54603-2817

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