Coronavirus Response & Resources

Cancellation of Speech Festivals

March 12, 2020:  It is with a heavy heart we must announce cancellation of ALL speech festivals – district and State – for the remainder of the season. Today, Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency, and in accordance, we are required to cancel our events. Coaches: please communicate to any adjudicators you've hired that festivals are cancelled. With uncertainty and limited time between now and the end of the school year, there are no reasonable means to plan and execute an alternate timeline for festival dates or locations. Several other states have cancelled their State Speech contests, so this is, indeed, an extraordinary situation.

Three-Year Gold Medalist Award

For the 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23 school years, the Four-Year Speech Gold Medalist Award is suspended; instead, a special Three-Year Gold Medalist Award will be available for 12th graders who have  earned three Gold Medals at the State Speech Festival, and who advanced to the District level in 2020. This ensures current 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students have the same opportunity to list on their résumés that they earned a perfect score at 100% of the State Speech festivals they attended.

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Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

Can students submit a video of their presentation, or can a virtual videoconference option be offered?

Unfortunately, no. First, the magnitude of handling videos for up to 4,500 students across the state, and adjudicators who may not have a working knowledge of technology would create a burden for the WHSFA, which is a fairly small nonprofit organization. Second, there are issues of equity in terms of access to equipment and network bandwidth for uploading videos, and/or videos of a certain quality. Finally, there are legal ramifications of minors (under age 18) appearing on videos that could potentially be viewed by anyone online, as well as recording of any copyrighted literature. For reference, this is the same standard we apply due to a school or student electing not to attend a festival when there’s inclement weather.

Can alternate/mini festivals or make-ups be held to adjudicate students?

Unfortunately, no. The sheer magnitude of 300+ schools, 4,000+ students, and limited time within the last few months of the school year, plus uncertainty regarding trajectory of the virus, cancellation of instructional time, potential extension of the school year, AP/IB exams, etc., makes it near impossible to coordinate a fair and equitable approach to finding an alternative solution.

We put a lot of effort into developing and practicing this season. Is this really the end of the road?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be. While evaluation in an interscholastic setting that allows students to strive to advance and earn awards is a motivating factor for participation, we should celebrate the important messages students share through their presentations — whether it’s raising our awareness of an important issue, creatively exploring an aspect of the human condition, or entertaining us creatively. Once schools reopen, and it is safe to do so, schools can organize a “showcase” for a public audience or “museum walk” of stations where students perform to smaller groups. Coaches also can document speeches on video to create an in-house archive of student work (though please be mindful of copyright law when it comes to performing literature, and obtain media releases for minors).

 Advice to Coaches

  • Check with your bus company ahead of a festival to confirm travel arrangements (individual bus companies can often make decisions irrespective of school districts, regarding weather and other challenges).
  • If you’ve booked a hotel, check on their cancellation policy, so you can do so, if necessary, within the required time period.
  • If you plan other activities in conjunction with attending a festival (i.e., dining out or shopping), discuss your itinerary with your school administrators, and make sure they’re okay with it, and that it’s safe for your students.

 Previous Updates

March 10: The WHSFA is monitoring the situation with coronavirus (COVID-19) as it develops, and working in concert with state and local health agencies, as well as the DPI, WIAA, and other similar organizations. As we get closer to the State Festival, we will make a definitive decision regarding that event, bearing in mind that the health and safety of participants is our top priority. Individual schools and families ultimately make decisions regarding their students’ ongoing participation in interscholastic contests. We have prepared a flyer with recommendations for healthy practices at festivals (see first button to the right).

Update-March 11: UW-Madison has suspended all face-to-face classes on campus, and any gatherings of more than 50 people through at least April 10. WHSFA is in ongoing communication with campus officials regarding the State Speech Festival.

Update-March 12: Effective immediately, all festivals are closed to outside guests (i.e., family, friends, etc.).  Only contestants and adjudicators will be allowed in contest roomsCoaches should instruct their students to tell families to not come to the festival, and if families do show up, coaches should not tell families the location of their students.  At your festival, please ask adjudicators to assist with enforcing this: they should take attendance for contestants, and any individuals in the room who are not contestants (or a school-sanctioned aide for a student with special needs) should be asked to leave; otherwise, the adjudicator should not begin the round, and should call or report to the tab room. This measure is to minimize the number of people in any given room – as well as in buildings, overall – as well as to protect older individuals and those who are immunocompromised.