Proms may go private this year

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

editor@newsandpress.net

Last year, COVID-19 shut down Darlington County public schools and forced the cancellation of all junior and senior proms. This year, the prospects for proms are still poor, but some people are planning to host private proms if the school district won’t allow high schools to hold their own. In a statement issued last week, county Education Superintendent Tim Newman said: “We recognize that prom and other social activities are a key part of a school experience. Unfortunately, we do not believe the current COVID-19 conditions and the necessary protocols for social distancing will permit us to hold our proms at this time.” “However, if the numbers and safety protocols change significantly for the better, we are open to revisiting this decision,” Newman added. “Attending prom is not the same as attending school five days a week,” Newman said. “In DCSD schools, students are required to maintain social distancing of 6 feet when standing near others. When students get closer than 6 feet, they use Plexiglas and plastic barriers between them. Further, all students must wear masks at all times. While possible in a school environment, these required protocols are not conducive to a positive prom experience.” Newman added: “With that said, we believe getting past Spring Break will give us a better indication of what COVID spread numbers will look like and whether or not we can safely conduct proms. Our seniors have been through a lot during this pandemic, and we certainly want to support traditions such as proms as safely as we can. We also cannot afford to let our guard down against preventing COVID spread as we see the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ ” Meanwhile, at least one area resident is offering students the option for a private prom outside school grounds. The resident, Eric DuBose, is offering to let students use a building he owns to hold their proms. The News & Press was unable to contact DuBose, but he told WPDE-TV: “Seeing them and how sad that is. … And I was like, ‘I got a building.’ I host a lot of events here. Why not, me having the helping hand that I got, I can step in and give them something to do.” He told WPDE that he can host the proms May 15. Other people and groups are also believed to be prepping for private proms if necessary. Newman’s position on proms has not changed much since he talked about the issue during a Feb. 22 school-board work session. At that work session last month, Newman told board: “From my perspective, I do not see a safe way of conducting proms at this point in time.” “People are asking, what’s the difference between prom and athletics? You don’t have hundreds of people dancing together at athletics,” Newman told the board. “ … I don’t think you can safely put together a lot of young adults and tell them not to do something. I don’t think that’s fair to them.” Newman continued: “I think we’re really setting people up if we’re going to tell a bunch of young people, ‘OK, you can gather, but you’ve got to be 6 feet apart, you’ve got to wear masks, and you can’t dance with each other, you can’t congregate.’ There’s just no real, good, safe way to do that.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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