By Sahar Chmais
COVID-19 has robbed high school students of prom for a second consecutive year. This came as upsetting news to some parents and their kids, while some were relieved.
Hays High School stated that they will not move forward with prom planning due to the ongoing pandemic. Maintaining student safety and enforcing proper protocols are not possible at an event with dancing and socializing, according to the school. While prom is cancelled, Hays CISD is still finalizing in-person graduation plans – but nothing is guaranteed in these uncertain times.
Prom has been a tradition for American high school students since the 1920’s, but all three Hays CISD high schools are not taking the risk. Just because the high schools have decided to opt out of a prom it does not mean that parents have given up. There have been parents who suggested creating their own prom. And in some cases, parents are fighting back with stern letters to their schools to bring prom back. Then there are others who simply do not care to follow this tradition.
One disapproving parent, who wanted to remain unnamed, wrote a letter to Hays High School Principal David Pierce. Last year, the parent had a senior and this year a junior. The note to Mr. Pierce said that there is a double standard.
It said the school has held many events, such as football games, where the players and those on the sidelines wore no masks. The parent added that if students can go to school wearing masks, why not apply the same rule to the prom, only allowing masks to be removed when drinking. Other tips that included finding an outdoor venue and limit groups from six to 10 students.
“Please reconsider your position,” the letter concluded, “because if you allow athletes to play their contact sports and intermix without masks on the sidelines and for photo opportunities… then your position on cancelling prom out of concern for safety is hypocritical and double standard.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, one mother reached out to the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch anonymously, afraid of parents lashing back at what she believes to be an unpopular opinion.
“I see many parents are upset about this,” the 43-year-old said, “we however aren’t. I think Hays did the right thing to cancel prom. It’s not the end of the world and honestly my daughter could care less about attending.”
This parent is afraid of another COVID-19 outbreak, especially after hearing about kids going to parties and spreading the virus.
There is a middle ground in all of this. Some parents and community members have formed a Facebook group to create their own prom, expenses paid out of their pocket. So far, the group has 32 members on board.
Melanie Byrne commented on the post which suggested creating this group saying, “at this point, we are just doing it ourselves. Cutting out the middle man and going all in. Our event, our rules.”
Dr. Mike Banyasz, MD in emergency medicine at Baylor Scott and White, does not believe there should be a prom this year. He expressed his opinion on a Facebook post.
“The prom was cancelled most likely for health and safety reasons,” Banyasz wrote. “Gathering a large group of kids together who are asymptomatic carriers of COVID is a terrible idea. I am a health care provider and we are struggling with COVID. Stay home, that’s my suggestion. The hospitals are struggling to find beds for sick patients.”
When 15% of total hospitalizations were due to COVID-19 for seven consecutive days, Hays County and others in Central Texas had to put restrictions in place beginning Jan. 11. This change was based on Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order.
Since September, Hays CISD has had a total of 130 documented staff COVID-19 infections and 145 documented student infections.