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With school-sponsored proms canceled, Carroll students and parents make alternative plans

Westminster High School students strolled around downtown in formal attire as cameras recorded and selfies were taken. It was to shoot a commercial for their Prom on the Town event — an alternative to the school-sponsored proms that were canceled for the second year in a row.

Students and parents created prom plans after Carroll County Public Schools announced the annual dances would not be held this school year because of the COVID-19 risks. Eric King, director of high schools, said prom was not worth the health risk and that the school system is not involved in any of the private community proms.

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Nicki James, class president of Westminster’s class of 2022, said prom is an integral part of the high school experience and the cancellation was a huge disappointment. But she’s thankful to have another opportunity. She said she and a few others thought of a “COVID conscious and safe” way to dress up, hang out and support small businesses.

Students from Westminster High School are creating a promotional video for Prom on the Town - an outdoor prom experience they are creating Wednesday, March 31, 2021.
Students from Westminster High School are creating a promotional video for Prom on the Town - an outdoor prom experience they are creating Wednesday, March 31, 2021. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

On Saturday, Westminster High students who bought a ticket can spend their prom at places like J&P, Mediterraneo, the Green Turtle, Rafael’s, J’s Sweet, Lux Boutique, The Spa on West Main and Cultivated who are all offering discounts or free items to prom-goers. The participating business and their discounts can be found on the back of the prom ticket.

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The ticket also allows for students to participate in a raffle if they visited at least three of the listed businesses. One of the prizes is a pair of air pods. The ticket sale money will go to the class of 2022 and be spent on their senior prom.

“We’re encouraging students to stay in masks and stay just in their groups,” James said.

A few Westminster High students met at a few locations in Westminster on March 31 for the commercial video shoot. One shot was in front of the mural at Locust Lane and another in front of the library.

“We can also get the ‘walking down the road’ shots here,” Emily Hochheiser, the class of 2022 adviser, said.

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She said the thought process behind the commercial was answering the question “how do we get kids prepared for this event?”

Filming the commercial was Allison Lord, a Westminster senior and student at the Career and Tech Center. Her teacher, Tony Hooper, the video production teacher, was helping her.

“Today’s shoot is going pretty well,” she said that day. “The light is working in our favor.”

Allison Lord, a senior at Westminster High School studying video production at CCTC, films some of her Westminster classmates as they create a promotional video for Prom on the Town - an outdoor prom experience being created by Westminster High students.
Allison Lord, a senior at Westminster High School studying video production at CCTC, films some of her Westminster classmates as they create a promotional video for Prom on the Town - an outdoor prom experience being created by Westminster High students. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Parents around the county are renting out public spaces for students to gather. Though the events take place inside, prom fliers are instructing students to wear masks.

Francis Scott Key High School students are hosting a prom at Bowling Brook Mansion in Keymar with the theme Under the Sea on Saturday. Students from Liberty High School are gathering at the Carroll County Agricultural Center and Shipley Arena on May 8. Parents of Winters Mill parents organized their prom night for May 15 at Union Mills Homestead. And South Carroll parents organized a junior and senior prom for May 8 at Martin’s West in Windsor Mill. The prom plans for Century High School students are unclear.

The parents of the South Carroll seniors also started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the dance which has raised more than $8,000.

“While some of our seniors attend school following a hybrid schedule, many of our seniors remain completely virtual and have only been involved with school activities through their computers,” the GoFundMe post read. “This is a huge time of transition for these kids, and many are heartbroken realizing all they are missing.”

Anna Townsend, parent of a Manchester Valley student, said they will hold a prom at Martin’s in Westminster May 15. She said members of a Manchester Valley parent Facebook group helped come up with the idea and raise money.

“I just thought if I can get enough volunteers, we can do this,” she said. “We can do this for our kids.”

She said she heard about the disappointment from parents whose children missed prom last year. Townsend said she knew she had to do something.

“I want to lay my head on my pillow and say I tried for him,” she said about her son.

The theme at Martin’s will be casino night. It will have a photo booth and the attire is formal.

“The only difference is we’re not going to be serving a big dinner,” she said, adding snacks will be available.

She said 22 parents said they were interested in volunteering and the maximum capacity is 300 people. She’s hoping for 150 students. The senior class at Manchester Valley also has 300 people but Townsend said she doesn’t expect to see all of them since some parents are hosting “mini proms.”

Townsend said the adults will have to wear masks and, at the time, she said she would have to speak to the owner about masks for kids.

“To try to mandate masks with a bunch of seniors and juniors, that’s going to be tough,” she said.

“The bigger concern is the dancing part,” she added later.

Townsend said every parent had to sign a consent form and students are expected to follow their rules of conduct.

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