Senior prom is a staple of the high school experience. It’s the highlight of every teen-based TV show, book, or movie — an evening to dress up and dance to loud music. Prom is a nice break from the stress of planning for college and life after high school.
But most high schoolers did not get to enjoy this rite of passage last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. And it’s up in the air for many local schools this year, too.
Will they, won’t they
Some schools will be playing it safe for another year — even those, like Delaware Valley High School in Milford, Pa., that are holding in-person instruction. The principal, Dr. Nicole Cosentino, said that because of the guidelines the school is “obligated to follow for the safety of all, a prom is not feasible this year.”
However, parents are organizing a non-school-sponsored, post-graduation prom. It will be held June 19 at The Lodge in Milford, complete with food, a DJ, and photo booth. Cosentino said, “We thank the parents for providing this opportunity for students to celebrate.” Tickets are $80 and may be purchased at firstname.lastname@example.org. Money orders and waivers may be dropped off at 5 p.m. on May 4 at the Walmart parking log or 5 p.m. on May 6 at Wells Fargo Bank on Log Tavern Road and Route 739.
Other schools in the tristate area are making plans. Lea Haddeland, a world language teacher and student advisor at Vernon Township High School in New Jersey, said the prom is a fun and safe way for students to return to some kind of normalcy.
Vernon is still finalizing details, but Haddeland knows for sure that all attendees will wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and comply with other Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. The venue will be an air-conditioned outdoor tent with a 500-person capacity. No more than eight students will be allowed at a table. The dinner will be buffet-style, with plexiglass between attendees and food servers.
Vernon is also planning its yearly senior breakfast, a tradition that takes place on the morning of senior prom.
Haddeland said there’s been no pushback from students or parents over the changes. “The kids have been so safe and responsible through all of this,” she said.
At one of the first in-person meetings with the senior class council to discuss prom plans, she said, each member sat in separate, six-person picnic tables with their masks on to protect their peers.
If you don’t, we will
At West Milford High School in New Jersey, students are also busy planning their senior prom, to be held on June 3.
The school-sponsored prom came after a handful of seniors took the matter into their own hands. They were planning their very own soiree at the Crystal Springs Resort in Vernon. But before plans could be finalized, their high school confirmed there would indeed be a school-sponsored prom, with all CDC guidelines observed. Masks will be worn except during outdoor photo taking and eating.
Unlike in past years, when students could get approval to bring dates from other schools, this prom will be open only to current West Milford High School students in good standing.
So plans for a second, non-school-sponsored prom started up in response.
Three senior girls were organizing an outdoor prom under a tent at the Wolden Meadows Farm in Hawley, Pa. Students would be able to bring non-students as their dates, and face coverings would be optional.
According to an Instagram page posted on March 8, attendees would be asked to fill out a Covid questionnaire, have their temperatures taken, and sign a form releasing the three student organizers from any responsibility should a guest become sick. The event was cancelled on March 15.
Though this prom was called off, the three organizers announced on April 8 that they are still fighting to allow outside guests at the school-sponsored prom.
Despite all the changes, West Milford seniors are still excited about their big night, especially since they’ve missed out on other traditions, like their senior class trip.
Some West Milford seniors will be wearing the dresses they’d purchased for their junior prom last year and were not able to wear. Some still plan to carry on the tradition of primping with their close friends at home before the party.
“We don’t want prom to be a super-spreader before graduation,” said student Colette Metcalf. “Wearing (a mask) so we can have a prom? Who cares? Just do it! It’ll still be fun.”
With 60 percent of the senior class opting into in-person learning, many are ready and willing to make the effort to keep each other safe so that they can have a good time together before moving on to college.
Many schools across the tristate area are still scrambling to finalize details. Monroe-Woodbury High School in Monroe, N.Y., has yet to announce if there will be a prom for its seniors.
“Plans are not solidified yet,” said Carole Spendley, the school’s communications coordinator. “They will reach their decision sometime this week.”
Warwick Valley High School in New York plans an outdoor prom on Main Street, in the heart of the village. Plans are for a fun, naturally socially distant prom— if permitted. The principal, Marguerite Fusco, said the school is awaiting approvals from local and state agencies.
Chester Academy is one of the few schools in Orange County, N.Y., that has actually decided on whether to have a prom this year. The principal, John Flanagan, said Chester will hold its prom on May 20 at Hotel Thayer in West Point, N.Y.
Flanagan said the prom will comply with all the recommendations and requirements issued by the school and the county and state health departments. The prom is, however, “subject to change if conditions present at the time of the event,” he said. “Masks are required, capacity limits will be implemented, and students will be tested prior to attending the event.”
If you’re among the students waiting on plans for your prom to be finalized, look for information to drop sometime in the next few weeks, either through email or your school’s website.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information about the non-school-sponsored prom for Delaware Valley seniors.