ROCK FALLS – COVID-19 isn’t going to wipe out Rock Falls High School prom festivities.
There will, however, be a different format. Because of restrictions that limit gatherings to 50 people, there will be no traditional prom dance and post-prom gathering.
Instead, there will be a Grand March, a parade, and a night at the drive-in movies. It was a plan hatched by a member of the Junior Optimist Club, Sydney Reyes, a senior whose prom was canceled last spring. It was approved by Junior Class officers.
Overseeing the scaled-back version of this year’s prom was Mindy Teske, a math teacher at RFHS and the Junior Class adviser.
“Our plan for the beginning of the year was pretty much determined by the [COVID] guidelines,” Teske said. “We didn’t feel it was going to open up enough to have a traditional prom. Therefore, we’ve been planning on the back end something we could have regardless of what the current conditions are.”
There will be different clothing options. Girls who want to wear fancy dresses and boys who want to wears tuxedos can do so for the Grand March. Those who do not want to get too dressed up are welcome as well.
“The kids that have dresses and want to do the traditional ‘I’m going to dress up for prom and go all out’ can still do that,” Teske said. “They can use those dresses. Then the students who generally don’t go to prom because they can’t afford that end of it – the expensive dinner, the tuxes and expensive dresses – can also come and wear more of a dressed-down, post-prom attire.”
Only Rock Falls sophomores, juniors and seniors will be allowed to attend – no freshmen, no students from other schools.
At 5 p.m. May 1, students will enter from the back parking lot and go directly to the small gym. There, Persona Studio will be on hand to take pictures. After photos, students will line up in the first floor hallway for the Grand March., which will be done virtually – no parents or other visitors will be allowed in Tabor Gym, but it will be streamed live so they can watch it.
Afterward, students will go straight to their vehicles. A prom parade will head east on West Second Street to the First Avenue Bridge, where a police escort will lead a caravan to Midway Drive-In Theater outside of Sterling, where they will watch two classic movies: “Grease” and “Footloose.” They also can change clothes at the drive-in. After the movies, students are to go home – no post-prom activities are planned.
Morrison High School’s tentative prom-like activities are slated for Saturday, April 24, just across the Mississippi River.
A shuttle will take students to Eagle Point Park in Clinton, where a trivia contest will be held for those who have signed up. It is limited to 50 people, which is about the size of the MHS senior class. If only a portion of the senior class signs up, other Morrison students could get involved.
After a few hours in Clinton, students will be shuttled to the TBK Bank Sports Complex in Bettendorf to play video games.
Morrison High School Principal Cory Bielema realizes trivia and video games may not be exactly what some students are looking for, but given the circumstances, at least it’s something.
“We put out a survey to the senior class, kind of seeing what they would like,” Bielema said. “Of course, they were most in favor of having a traditional type of prom. Some mentioned they would not be interested in coming to a modified prom, so we’re looking at opening it up to other members of our building, to see what the interest would be.
“I guess the next step would be to allow our seniors to bring a date, from within Morrison. We’ll see where the numbers are with that, and build from there.”
If the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines ease up, a more traditional prom is a possibility, maybe in early June.
“That would be more of a prom-like atmosphere, and we’re keeping that on the table as well. … It’s going to come down to those guidelines. If we can have [students] in masks and formalwear, and have a dance on the football field, we’d try it. That’s an idea we’ve been batting around,” Bielema said.
“We’re hoping things change between now and a month from now. If we have to make some adjustments on the fly, that’s what we’ll do. We’ve gotten used to that with athletics this year.”
Sterling High School will come as close as possible to a traditional prom on May 1. It is open to all SHS students, although an upperclassmen has to ask an underclassmen in order for a freshman or sophomore to attend. No students from other schools will be allowed.
It begins at 7 p.m. with the Prom Premier in the SHS auditorium. Students can wear formal attire if they choose, or dress more casually. It will be broadcast on Golden Warrior TV, since parents, friends, and others can’t attend in person.
After the Prom Premier, students will walk to the grassy area outside of Roscoe Eades Stadium for a dance under the stars that will last until midnight. There will be one tent in which a DJ will play music, and five large tents surrounding it that will host pods of SHS students. They will be assigned to a tent beforehand, and will not be allowed to enter the other tents.
Masks will be worn and social distancing observed. Donated food and drink will be available at the concession stand, and there will be raffle drawings for prizes.
Sterling high school administration and junior and senior class parents came up with the plans for this year’s alternative prom.
“Obviously, last year’s junior class, our current senior class, didn’t have a chance to put a prom on,” Sterling High School Principal Jason Austin said. “So they had a lot of things in place that we’ll be utilizing this year, with those parents’ permission and the money they had already put down.
“This year’s junior parents picked up the plan, and we then collaborated with an idea that, knowing the way Illinois and the Illinois Department of Public Health have issued their guidelines, when you’re outside, you have many more freedoms and greater occupancy.”
Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling isn’t calling it prom: This year’s event will be a “Senior Soiree” May 1 at Brandywine Banquets in Dixon, for the school’s 47 seniors only – no visiting students, no underclassmen. There will be music, dancing, pictures, games and trivia, and a grand march of some sort.
Dinner will be served, with masking and other safety measures observed, counselor and soiree organizer Debbi Kelly said, adding that some of the details, like which games will be played, still are being worked out.
Amboy High School Principal Janet Crownhart said they have been working with the Lee County Health Department on options for prom, scheduled for May 15, but they don’t have any plans in place yet.
“We are hoping to move into the Bridge Phase soon [when the state further rolls back restrictions for restaurants, conventions, festivals and other social events], although it looks like numbers are rising again,” she said.
Ashton-Franklin Center High School will have a smaller-scale prom limited to juniors and seniors only on April 24, and Principal Kim Torman said they will be adhering to IDPH and Illinois State Board of Education guidelines.
Oregon High School’s prom is planned for May 1; it will be held inside the Blackhawk Center as well as in a tent outside. Fifty people will be allowed in each area, and students must wear masks and follow the social distancing guidelines in place at the time.
“I do think they deserve these things,” Oregon Superintendent Tom Mahoney said. “Leadership, service and activities are just as important as learning. We’re doing everything we can.”
Polo High School’s prom will be held May 8, also at the Brandywine, and also with masks and social distancing required. Health checks will be done on students, and tickets will be limited to stay within guidelines.
“All of these end-of-year things will be a little different,” Polo Superintendent Kelly Mandrell said. “At the same time, we’re giving kids what they need. That’s part of it, rewarding them. But we have to make sure it’s safe.”