Syracuse, N.Y. — In a year unlike any other, high school students across Central New York – and New York state – last spring forfeited junior proms and senior balls due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But now, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement last week of new rules for larger gatherings, there is optimism that this may open the door for schools to host their annual dances.
One district has already set tentative dates and locations for a prom while other districts are discussing what to do.
But if they go on, proms and senior balls will not look like they did before the pandemic. The state rules would require:
- Social distancing and dancing. People will need to dance within a 36-square-foot zone and stay six feet from other dance zones, according to state rules on dancing announced two weeks ago. The dance zones must be clearly marked areas assigned to each dance group.
- Masks for everyone.
- Fewer people or bigger places. That could mean outdoor dances with tents or bigger venues. Places can reopen starting April 2 at 33% capacity with crowds up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors.
- Covid testing for all? There is no requirement for testing but if people are tested capacity can be increased to 150 people indoors and 500 outdoors.
The new rules have prompted school administrators and prom organizers to begin having conversations about proms, senior balls and graduations.
“We are hopeful,’’ Fayetteville-Manlius High School principal Ray Kilmer told Syracuse.com | The Post Standard. “We are not sure exactly what these will look like yet but we are hopeful we can provide meaningful celebrations and activities this spring.”
School administrators say they plan to work with Onondaga County to determine how proms can happen safely.
“Everything is on the table,’’ Kilmer said. “Dancing is a step we never imagined earlier would be allowed, and now it is.”
Although there are no specifics yet, Cicero North Syracuse High School has gone as far as tentatively scheduling its senior ball for 7 to 11 p.m. June 11 at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Syracuse. The junior prom is slated for 7 to 11 p.m. May 14 at the Sheraton University Hotel at Syracuse University.
“We have cautiously moved forward with planning this event,’’ knowing the restrictions the state places on gatherings, CNS High School Executive Principal Jamie Sullivan said in a letter to parents.
C-NS has also scheduled graduation for 6 pm. June 25 at the tentative location of the New York State Fair Exposition Center.
Across the state, schools are weighing what they can do.
Bob Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, said it’s not clear how the new rules will impact these events. But he wonders how larger schools can find places big enough for their events, especially considering chaperones, staff and others who might be in attendance.
For some, it’s too early to consider setting a date. Liverpool School Superintendent Mark Potter said there are no definitive plans yet for junior prom or senior ball.
At Jamesville-DeWitt High School, discussions on what to do and how are taking place, said Principal Paul Gasparini.
“The class advisors and I are working with students and parents on several contingencies for prom and ball and we are very optimistic about being able to accommodate all students in May,’’ he told Syracuse.com | The Post Standard.
The possible plans outside events with tents, properly distanced dancing and safe activities, he said.
At East Syracuse Minoa, senior parents are discussing ideas on social media on how to hold a prom.
“Are we ready to rent a big tent and allow these guys in the school parking lot or football field,’’ said one parent. “Use our tables and chairs from the cafeteria and ask for volunteers and donations to ensure our kids a senior ball.”
Others said they want to take their time and focus on graduation instead.
A lot will depend on the interpretation of guidance, and that means discussions with Onondaga County, said Christian Brothers Academy President Matt Keough.
“If all of the health organizations locally and statewide agree about the safety and necessary protocols, we will find a way to offer these experiences to our students,” he said.
In other states, such as Florida, proms, balls and graduations are moving ahead with restrictions.
Elizabeth Doran covers education, suburban government and development, breaking news and more. Got a tip, comment or story idea? Contact her anytime at 315-470-3012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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