Making prom plans: Routt County schools work to host in-person celebrations to close out school year
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Schools in Routt County are working to give high school students something they didn’t get to have last year — a prom.
With the onset of the pandemic, traditional high school proms were forgone as students learned from home and officials worried such a celebration could spawn a super-spreader event.
Prom won’t be traditional for this year’s class of students, either, but districts are planning to have some kind of in-person event for their students, hoping to navigate the maze of often changing COVID-19 restrictions. Work to organize graduation celebrations is in progress, too, with each district in the county currently opting to hold outdoor events.
As with everything in the pandemic, these plans are fluid and will depend on what public health restrictions are in place locally in the coming weeks when these events are planned to take place.
“To us adults, we have a perspective of multiple opportunities to do things. A class of seniors, they only get one shot,” said South Routt School District Superintendent Rim Watson. “I really want to make sure that we cause them to get to have the experience.”
Both the South Routt and Hayden school districts will hold some version of prom this year, while the Steamboat Springs School District is planning a show for their senior class in place of a dance.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released guidance last month about how schools can hold a prom safely. Watson said South Routt is planning a prom that follows these guidelines, and it is somewhat easier for them because they are such a small school.
“We have a lot of things in our favor, because of our size, so we want to put those to use but still honor the mitigation,” Watson said.
A virtual gathering is the safest option, guidance says, but local high schools are hoping to have an in-person event. Outdoor events would be safer than indoor, and, regardless, the smaller the group of students the better.
Schools are encouraged to group students together in pods of no more than 10, which would be determined weeks before prom, the guidance says. Archie Shipp, principal at Hayden High School, said they were planning to use a pod system during their prom, dividing up the room to keep various groups of students separated.
“We will be able to have an event. What it looks like is probably not going to be like any prom anyone here has ever seen,” Shipp said. “We’re still going through the process and seeing what we have to do.”
Shipp said the temperature of each student will be taken, and all students will be required to fill out a questionnaire about potential symptoms at the door before they are allowed to enter prom.
In regards to dancing, the state guidance said it can happen, but students need to be wearing masks and should dance only with those in their assigned pod. Having a dinner at a prom or similar event is not recommended.
With a much larger student body than other schools in the county, Steamboat Springs High School will forgo a traditional dance in favor of a show for just the seniors from a hypnotist with whom students are familiar from previous after-prom functions, said Janine Iacovetto, office manager at the high school.
This type of event will allow the school to limit gathering among students more than would be feasible in a traditional setting, she said.
“I think they will love it, and it will be a good time,” Iacovetto said.
Each district in the county is also currently working on graduation plans.
Early plans are for Steamboat Springs High School to hold an in-person graduation ceremony for graduates outside on Gardner Field. Plans for attendance at the ceremony are still in the works, Iacovetto said.
“We will wait to see where the county is at on the dial to see if we can invite anybody else,” Iacovetto said.
In Oak Creek, last year’s graduation ceremony was moved outside to South Routt’s football field with family and other guests driving onto the field to sit in their cars during the ceremony. As of right now, Watson said, the plan is to host the ceremony on the football field again but without the cars.
“Hopefully, not have them in vehicles but to be able to space out outside and have the guests either in the stands or in chairs spread out on the football field,” Watson said.
Hayden High School hosted a drive-thru graduation in 2020. This year, the school is likely going to have a ceremony on the school’s new football field.
“The kids have missed out on so much this year of what most of us would consider a normal high school experience,” Shipp said. “Giving them the opportunity — no matter how strange it might end up being because of the guidelines — is important so they can say that they had that experience.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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