Despite prom cancellation, plans for outdoor graduation underway

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This year, in response to the ongoing pandemic, large gatherings such as prom and graduation, will be approached differently. At the moment, the Department of Education has mandated that schools are not permitted to have indoor or outdoor prom celebrations. On the other hand, a recent announcement from the administration confirmed an in-person outdoor graduation for the Class of 2021. The seniors will be graduating in Forest Park on June 21.

While abiding to the guidance issued, the administration is exploring possibilities for prom. The administration is considering holding an in-person prom at a later time if it adheres to safety measures; however, the decision depends on DOE and local government guidelines.

“Regarding prom, it was the DOE—and not THHS admin—who prohibited schools from having proms, even if they are fully outdoors,” senior advisor Jamie Baranoff said. “If and when there is a safe time to do so, we will plan a prom for the Class of 2021, and possibly also for the Class of 2020 (if there is interest) who missed out on their prom as well.” 

Some seniors expressed their disappointment in the cancellation of prom, yet understood the risk prom imposed. Senior Emmanuella Borukh said, “It’s sad honestly because we’ve missed so much of [our] senior year, but I feel like we expected this and at least we were mentally prepared.” Senior Stacey Roy agreed and said, “Considering how newer variant strains of COVID are still being explored and the way the pandemic has been progressing, I definitely expected this to happen.” 

Senior Lana Lukacevic also thought the cancellation of prom was the right decision. She said, “It wouldn’t have been wise to have that many people around each other dancing, eating, etc. I don’t think it’s worth the risk.” 

Other seniors were indifferent to the decision. “Prom for me is simply another social event in which students gather together to party. I don’t see any other meaning to it,” said senior Hans Li. 

However, many Harrisites, especially those involved in planning the prom, were disappointed. “This was solely the DOE’s decision, so it was very sudden for the senior council who had been planning prom,” said Ms. Baranoff.

The early planning also had its consequences. “Once the senior council posted a poll for the date of prom, I got a bit excited and started looking for a dress. I was sad once I heard it was cancelled,” said senior Sahithi Attada. 

There are still several uncertainties regarding this year’s outdoor graduation ceremony. “An in-person outdoor graduation would ideally look a lot like our traditional graduation ceremonies at Colden Auditorium. We would have to adhere to social distancing regulations, and everyone would be required to wear a mask. There might also have to be a limit on the number of family members allowed to attend. We are working hard to figure out the best possible plan but a lot is still just not known at this time,” said Ms. Baranoff.

Despite the uncertainties, several seniors expressed excitement now that their graduation has been confirmed.

“I am genuinely surprised that we are not having a virtual graduation,” said senior Isabella Gallegos. “However, it does feel validating. We’ve worked so hard to make it this far … this feels a little more real and I’m glad we can at least have that.” 

Stacey said, “I feel assured knowing that the senior class can still keep their most important event of high school at the end of these four years.”

Nonetheless, some seniors expressed some concerns about an outdoor graduation ceremony. Senior Charlene Lee said, “I’m still nervous about being surrounded by that many people, honestly. My mom has asthma and so it’s always been my priority to not get sick, for her sake; [however], the idea of seeing all my classmates is tempting. Hopefully my parents decide that it’s okay to go.” 

The administration hopes to celebrate the Class of 2021, which has experienced several difficulties this past year. “We know our seniors have lost so much and we feel your disappointment,” said Assistant Principal Veronica York. “My heart hurts for the Class of 2021. It would be nice to see everyone and to end on a high note.”

Additional reporting done by Sohini Alim

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