When Mauldin High School canceled its reservation with a prom venue a few weeks ago, a group of parents decided to take over the reservation instead.
Worried that prom would be another thing high school seniors miss out on this year because of COVID-19, the group is planning to host the event as closely to a typical prom as they can. The event will be on the same date and at the original venue the school planned to have it, but without the school as a sponsor.
“They’ve had nothing all year — they’ve had no normal anything,” said Ashley Lomax, who is organizing the parent-sponsored event because her daughter is a senior at Mauldin High. “We were trying to make sure they at least have this.”
They aren’t the only ones — events called “mom proms” have cropped up across Greenville County as schools have started to let parents know they won’t be hosting the traditional dances this year.
Lomax said she knew of similar “mom proms” parents hosted for small groups of students last year after schools were shut down in March because of the pandemic.
“It was important for us to make sure that every senior at Mauldin was invited,” Lomax said of the event this year. “Because some of the mom proms last year were kind of just small groups, so some of the kids got left out, and we wanted to make sure our number one goal is that every senior at the high school was able to come.”
Greenville County Schools has nixed its plans for traditional proms this year because of COVID-19 and will instead replace them with a “senior event” at each high school.
The rules for the senior events are strict, but schools could technically still call them “proms” — without the dancing and mingling. Students will be allowed to attend the events in pods of eight students, and they will be required to stay six feet apart from people outside of their pods or wear masks.
Some schools, such as Mauldin High, are still encouraging students to dress in formal attire for the event, even though the school is calling it a “senior send-off” rather than prom. Wade Hampton High School is calling its event “A Night on the Red Carpet” with formal attire where it will announce a “king” and “queen” and present senior awards.
‘We want our kids to have that memory’
Heather Johnson, whose daughter is a senior at Mauldin High this year, said she understands why the district canceled traditional prom and is glad schools are still trying to plan events, but they don’t replace what the students will have missed out on this year.
“We just feel like we want our kids to have that memory,” Johnson said. “They can’t get their senior year in high school back.”
And for some parents, the dances are as important to them as they are for the seniors.
“Especially because I have a daughter, we go to pick out a dress, and I have an appointment for her to get her hair done and her make-up done,” Johnson said. “And we want to have those pictures.”
The parents have formed a Facebook group and a GoFundMe page to plan the prom, which will be at the downtown Greenville event space Zen on April 24. Lomax said there will be chaperones and the typical prom rules will still apply, such as no dates over 21 years old. The group will also follow any rules the event venue might have regarding COVID-19, which for now, is simply limited capacity, according to Lomax.
‘It was just not a normal year at all’
Students will still need to purchase tickets to cover the cost of the space and any food, but Lomax said the group is trying to use the GoFundMe to keep the cost under $60 per ticket, which is how much Mauldin High typically charges.
Johnson, who graduated from Mauldin High in 1991, is hoping to drum up excitement in the 2021 class and compensate for the activities they missed out on this year and at the end of their junior year last spring.
“Normally you participate in all these things when you’re a senior, and in pep rallies there’s ‘color day,’ and all this stuff. There was none of that. There was nothing. There was no homecoming dance,” Johnson said. “It was just not a normal year at all.”
Along with helping organize Mauldin’s prom, she has also started an “adopt-a-senior” group on Facebook where parents and community residents can send small gifts and notes to Mauldin High seniors before they graduate.
“We’re just trying to help as much as possible for their senior year,” Johnson said.
Ariel Gilreath is a watchdog reporter focusing on education and family issues with The Greenville News and Independent Mail. Contact her at [email protected] and on Twitter @ArielGilreath.