Administration Cancels Prom after Months of Planning

Marian Steinmann, Staff Writer

Upperclassmen streamed into the halls filled with shock, indignation and sorrow last Friday after an email went out announcing the prom’s cancellation.

Much of this shock and sadness resulted from the idea that administration didn’t care enough to even try to plan a dance; others were just disappointed that the pandemic stole another high school experience.

I’m not going to lie: I was a member of both groups. I was hurt by the thought of such an important event being brushed aside by the staff, but I was ignorant to the hours of planning and brainstorming that a group of teachers had done to attempt to plan a prom.

I sat down to talk with social studies teacher Sairee Knabe, the head of the prom committee, to discuss the thought process behind this difficult decision. The conversation went as follows:

Q: How and when did you become involved in planning prom?

A: 10 years ago. I had chaperoned prom a lot, and I loved it. It was always such a fun night and I enjoyed chaperoning. The person in charge of it was retiring. She had done it for 25 and she was like “Sairee, I need someone to take this over.” I was at a point in my life where…I was totally stuck in this rut, and I was like, “You know what? I’m not saying no to anything.”

Q: When did the conversation about this year’s prom start?

A: From day one. Dr. Stuart was all about…making sure everything was all ready to go. This was at the beginning where everything was a lot stricter, and we just wanted to make sure… we had every opportunity to make [prom] happen. So, I booked the place. Some early decisions were made, like there would be no food offered; you can’t really do a buffet with COVID-19. We got a DJ. We took care of all of the big things. Another concern was, if there’s no food, what do I charge people? What if people buy tickets and then they can’t go because of COVID-19? Even if they’re not sick but the school quarantined them, they can’t go. They’re going to want money back… [what] if that money’s already been spent? The law says no more than 50 people at a gathering. Because the convention center is large enough, we can have up to 200 people in the space. So we thought we could cut it down to seniors only, but there are 500 students in the senior class. We would’ve had to sign up and do two events, and maybe three depending on how many seniors want to come.

Q: What led to the final decision to cancel?

A: We had these potential plans. We were looking at what other schools were doing. All the local schools were cancelling. Then I got an email from the convention center…this was Thursday…they sent me an email saying, “We need to know by tomorrow at noon whether you’re going to have it or not, because if you’re going to cancel, we have someone else wanting the space.” Part of that irritates me, because I wanted to be able to wait until April to see if maybe conditions would loosen up, and maybe we could have 300 to 400 kids at a time. At the same time, I would have had to pay that full $6,000, and I can’t afford that. The district uses taxpayer money, and is it the best decision to use that money to pay for something that may never [happen]? With too much up in the air and everybody cancelling around us, it wasn’t working out. We had come up with all these plans but there was still no guarantee that those plans would work, and then we were put in that position where we had to know in the next 24 hours.

Q: What kind of student response did you observe?

A: They’re so upset. Just mostly so disappointed, and I get it. And I don’t know if I let them feel that enough. Because I felt so responsible, I was trying to explain it so much. I get it. For some, it’s so upsetting because they love prom, or they wanted a prom. But I think for so many it just represents another thing on top of so many other things that your guys’ senior year hasn’t [had]. Class of 2020 got three quarters of a normal year and you guys haven’t gotten any of that.