BOSTON (AP) – A ballpark in a small league. A negative coronavirus test and absolutely no slow dancing.
These are just some of the unusual requirements for a prom in Manchester, New Hampshire, later this month, one of the many school districts across the country struggling to hold the formal dance in the second year of the pandemic.
Students only learned earlier this month that the proposal to hold a prom on May 28 at New Hampshire Fisher Cats Stadium had been approved after some school board members expressed concerns that the event could spread the coronavirus. In addition to socially distant dancing, students are also encouraged to get vaccinated before dancing.
“It would be great if we could all have a prom and be together. I mean, I haven’t seen some of my classmates in over a year, ”said Allison Hermann, a senior citizen of Central High School who helped plan the prom.
“This is one of the few times that we can all share with one another. Just being a high school graduate is very symbolic so the fact that we haven’t had the chance to be together is really sad, ”she added.
School districts across the country are considering whether to safely host an event that many seniors consider the keystone of their high school careers.
Schools from Miami to Charlotte to El Paso have already canceled the prom for security reasons. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has described proms as a high-risk activity due to singing and dancing and has recommended districts eliminate proms and develop alternative celebrations for seniors.
Some students and parents make progress to organize their own celebrations when the school chooses not to. These schools – albeit with a list of restrictions – are spearheading rising vaccination rates and falling coronavirus cases in their districts.
Some proms require a negative coronavirus test, while others encourage students to get vaccinated before putting on their robes and tuxedos. Most require masks and have strict restrictions on dancing, or who can participate?
In Florida, Sarasota County schools allow prom without dancing and limit the event to seniors. Several schools, including Duval County’s Fletcher High School, are requiring students to quarantine for 10 days after the event. Many districts dance outdoors, including one on a yacht and one in a football stadium.
At Elmbrook Schools outside of Milwaukee, Superintendent Mark Hansen said he worked with teachers, students and parents to develop a process that “can restore some level of normalcy to school events that have been lost in over a year are”.
The two Elmbrook High Schools need a negative COVID-19 test in order to attend their two proms. Students are encouraged to stay with their friends “to prevent an outbreak from having a dramatic effect on our ability to continue operations”.
Hansen said no cases were reported from the first prom on May 8. The second prom will take place this weekend.
An outdoor prom in Exeter, New Hampshire on June 4th will spin students on and off the dance floor under an flyer with no touch allowed. And they only serve water, not food.
“We’re really trying to make it as safe as possible. The last thing we want is the spread of COVID, ”said Liz Morse, Exeter High School science teacher and senior class advisor. “Everyone makes concessions and the people are pretty lovely.”
Some districts, with student support, host alternative events, such as movie nights or outdoor dinners, to understand the importance of the event for seniors. But prom cancellations elsewhere have frustrated and angry many students and their parents.
In Manor, Texas, the school had set a date, time, and location for Jesenia Correa’s prom. She even let her choose her dress – a glamorous long burgundy dress with a dramatic slit and spaghetti straps. But the administration abruptly turned around for security reasons and canceled the event.
“I’m honestly pissed off that we don’t have a prom,” said Correa. I feel like I’m being robbed of a milestone, especially since the school managed so many other things despite COVID. “
In Frederick, Maryland, Presley Winer is attending an alternate prom and dance this weekend that was planned by parents after their school canceled the prom.
“It felt like a milestone that won’t happen in my life and it made me sad to know that one of the most rewarding parts of the past year has been pulled away from me and others,” said the 18-year-old senior.
Some southern New Mexico students held an unapproved prom after being told that their official event would not allow slow dancing. After the El Paso districts canceled the prom, Grace Gardens, a major venue in town, hosted a dance for this year’s seniors and college students who graduated last year. The outdoor mask-option prom at the 125,000-square-foot venue last Friday included three dance floors and drew around 2,000 students.
Many students danced shoulder to shoulder to club hits and bachata, a Caribbean partner dance. However, some tried to avoid the denser crowds, wearing masks and trying to distance themselves socially.
Eugenio Vasquez, 18, of Jackson, Mississippi, attended prom with his long-distance friend who is a student at a local high school.
“It was a great night. I especially enjoyed myself for someone who isn’t a party animal, ”he said.
Associate press writer Kelli Kennedy of Fort Lauderdale, Florida contributed to this report.
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