Despite roadblock, prom limousine shifts into gear

Kings Mills ballroom, the venue for prom on June 11 – WiseImage Photography

If the scale ranges from a typical Coronavirus-era event to “A Night to Remember” from High School Musical 3, you’d be surprised where our prom will fall. 

Colby Kim ’21 and Eli Pollack ’21 sport baby blue tuxedos, October 30, 2020 – Ms. Barbara LaPenta

     Choreographed dancing and flashy limousines? Unlikely. But efforts made by a new group of party-planners should allow students to sport their prom king and the baby blue tuxedos, reintroduced by Sixth Formers Colby Kim and Eli Pollack in the Halloween costume competition.  

     “We aren’t technically allowed to have prom through the school,” Sixth Form Student Body President Cyril Leahy said. 

     “To my knowledge, there’s no prom,” math teacher Ms. Barb LaPenta said. “Given the current CDC restrictions, I don’t know where we’d be able to host it.”

     If you stumbled into a student council meeting, there would be no party-planning committee, no students designing an invitation flyer, and no phone call with a ballroom venue on the other line. 

     “[The prom committee] met a couple of times last year. We have not met in a long time,” Sixth Form representative Mac Zeller said.  

“There are a host of reasons why the school would not want to be liable. By sponsoring, you’re taking responsibility for all potential outcomes.”

Head of upper school mark fifer

     Student leadership has taken a backseat approach to the event that, in normal circumstances, is their top priority. The reason? The administration has yet to develop a clear plan.

     Head of School Dr. John Nagl and Upper School Head Mr. Mark Fifer agree: the school has not yet made a decision whether prom will be school-sanctioned or parent-led. 

     “There are a host of reasons why the school would not want to be liable,” Mr. Fifer said. “By sponsoring, you’re taking responsibility for all potential outcomes.”

     Administrators have just received the long-awaited results of a Montgomery County “Guidance for Prom” meeting.

     Twenty-five people. The County Office of Public Health has concluded that indoor, end-of-year, school-sponsored functions are limited to twenty-five people. 

     The school can either provide the finances and chaperones for an outdoor event or the parents can take the reins. In short, according to Montgomery County, a Haverford-sponsored event must be outdoors. 

     Graduation, along with Episcopal Academy’s and Shipley’s proms, will be held outdoors, so this is still a possibility for the school. 

     “We will follow the county guidelines,” Mr. Fifer said. 

“$175 per couple, 150 people, 7:30 to 11:30 on June 11. We’ll have a D.J., photo opportunity prior, and security.” 

Ms. lee seaman

     While decision-makers contend with liability concerns and county restrictions, two parents have taken the initiative. Interim party-planning committee Ms. Lee Seaman and Mrs. Pam Carlino have stepped in.

     “I already put the deposit down for Kings Mills [banquet hall],” Ms. Lee Seaman said in a telephone interview. “$175 per couple, 150 people, 7:30 to 11:30 on June 11. We’ll have a D.J., photo opportunity prior, and security.” 

     “We want the boys to enjoy their prom,” Mrs. Carlino said. “We’ve communicated with the school through class parents.”

      But the parent committee and Dr. Nagl are not yet on the same page. 

     “We very much hope to provide the boys with a prom experience if we can do so safely and in accordance with the law,” Dr. Nagl said. 

     His intentions are clear, but perhaps the only way the school can provide such an experience is to change venues. Montgomery County’s twenty-five-person indoor limit that governs school-sanctioned events, coupled with a Kings Mills’ 150-person ballroom leaves no confusion: this will be a private event.  

     Kings Mills Events Coordinator Jessica Power-Venuti said, “Our staff will be wearing masks, and you have to wear them in the food lines. On the dance floor, we encourage masks, but you’re permitted to take them off.” 

     Each hopeful prom king and queen must sign a release form before entering. If the Coronavirus is still a concern in June, Kings Mills will not be accountable for its spread; the sponsoring party will be, and therefore Haverford is unlikely to take responsibility by sponsoring.

     “We’re uncomfortable staffing the prom with our own faculty,” Mr. Fifer said. “Attending a large social gathering seems to be around the corner, but until we know that our people are vaccinated, it’s hard for me to approve.”

     “It’s just a very risky situation,” Ms. LaPenta said. 

“Forever a Ford” promotional flyer – courtesy of Mrs. Cecilia Cooleen

     Once again, all for understandable reasons, the school is also taking a backseat role to the parents driving the prom limousine. 

     A simple solution might be to separate the school from the privately-organized prom, but problems arise. If Haverford sponsored, teachers would chaperone; if parents funded, parents would chaperone. But what happens when the parents who funded the event want teachers to chaperone?

     “I’ve been approached by [parents] about chaperoning the event,” one teacher said. “It’s a serious conflict of interest.”

     Another teacher admitted that parents reached out through phone calls and emails about helping out with a privately funded prom. 

     Assuming Haverford is dissociated with prom, these two teachers face a dilemma. Should they chaperone, disobeying Mr. Fifer and Dr. Nagl to see their students one last time before college? Or should they spend their Friday night elsewhere? 

     Whether the dinner buffet is covered by Haverford funds or parent checkbooks, whether your favorite teacher or your friend’s mother watches you twirl your date, whether the invitation is sent by Mr. Fifer or a parent, prom is on. 

     “It will allow me to have one last hurrah with my classmates that resembles something much closer to pre covid times,” Sixth Form representative Trevor Pettibone said. 

Author: Tyler Zimmer '21

Editor-in-Chief Tyler Zimmer '21 has written for each section of The Index since 2018. He previously served as Managing Editor and Arts Editor. In addition to journalism, Tyler plays baseball and golf, and he is often found working in the art studio.