Each of the venues returned the same line: we can host 100 people, maybe 150 people. Under current guidelines. That might change of course.
“We needed to have more control over it,” said Jamie Harms.
Harms is student services coordinator at Mound Westonka High School and had last year acted as control person from her kitchen table to stream a certain rite of passage from YouTube: prom.
The night of the dance had her working double-time to maneuver last minute copyright use on the curated playlist and navigate around the lag of a sometimes spotty Internet connection.
Hosting the dinner and dance at Mound Westonka High School should this year come off with relative surety. Piece of cake.
The “parking lot party” (as Harms jokingly called it) will be much less gritty than it sounds. Student Senate members chose a theme of “Falling through Fairytales,” and on Saturday, May 8 a massive event tent will be strung with fairy lights and give the usual asphalt a storybook whimsicality.
Yard games—giant Jenga, Bocce ball, cornhole—will build on that theme (although any hedgehog-and-flamingo croquet seems to have been confined to Alice’s Wonderland).
“I think the way that we have developed the story and also the way we have developed all of the pieces surrounding it…it really has come together to have a really magical feel to it,” said Harms.
MWHS had its coronation of prom court inside the school’s gymnasium last Sunday, May 2. A storybook backdrop was constructed so that this year’s royalty stepped right out of the pages of a fairytale. Confetti scattered onto the floor, and Cinderella’s carriage was parked to the side. One week to go and things were at last falling into place, said Harms.
“At last” because this year’s prom was still in limbo up until about mid-March when Minnesota Department of Health in conjunction with Minnesota Department of Education gave guidance to schools around holding the traditional senior and junior dance.
The planning for this year’s prom was already condensed at Westonka; Harms and the Student Senate only began planning for it in January when normally they’d start in October. But that limited time was still a good deal more than the one month they had last year to throw together a virtual party.
At MWHS, both last fall’s Homecoming and this February’s Snow Days Dance had been canceled, and Harms said that until that mid-March guidance came in there was a lot of uncertainty around being able to do anything more than the coronation and the grand march.
MDE and MDH had left it up to individual schools to decide what to do but did advise that groups be limited and that social distancing be maintained between groups but not required among the members within any one group.
That last part sealed it: the dance could happen.
But some worry was still there for Harms. It was unclear until late last month just how popular prom would be this year. Harms said that only within the past two weeks did they sell enough tickets to make budget, and attendance is now looking to be in line with a normal year.
Harms said, too, that with the outdoor setting and the ability to spread across the school’s parking lot and adjacent fields, they were able to work it such that both juniors and seniors could attend the prom as well as students from other schools and Westonka tenth-graders who were invited by an upperclassman, just as in years past.
“It’s a pretty big 180 from last year,” said Harms of this year’s “almost traditional prom.”
It also, she said, might be the biggest one that she and her Student Senate members have done yet.