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No proms this year for Harford County students, but in-person graduations still planned

Harford County Public Schools won’t have proms for high school seniors and juniors this spring but does plan to have in-person graduation ceremonies.

In a message sent to families with with students in the 11th and 12th grades, HCPS said its focus “will be to highlight student academic and athletic accomplishments this year; HCPS does not have plans to host typical social events, like prom, for students.”

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It will mark the second-straight year proms in Harford County have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I find it pretty disappointing that they couldn’t find any way to give us a prom after everything we’ve been through in the past year,” Patterson Mill High senior Dakota Pitts said. “The restrictions are even being lessened now, like big venues can be at 50% capacity. Since proms are at big venues, I believe there should be a way to give the seniors one.”

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HCPS officials made the decision prior to Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement lifting capacity restrictions on restaurants and allowing large indoor venues 50% capacity, according to the message. In year’s past, Harford schools have held proms at places like Martin’s East and Valley Mansion in Baltimore County, Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, and Water’s Edge in Belcamp. The owners of Martin’s East announced last month that the venue would close after 40 years, citing the pandemic.

“We heard the governor announce that social venues and events like prom could occur. However, the governor also said mitigation strategies would need to remain in place,” the HCPS message states. “This includes 50% capacity for venues like those in which HCPS would hold proms. It also means wearing masks and maintaining 6 feet of social distancing whenever and wherever possible.

“As an educational institution, we cannot provide an environment and event like prom where we could not support or enforce the mitigation strategies that would be required. We know that this is not what students want to hear, and again ask for your help in supporting your child through this difficult news.”

Havre de Grace senior Jaylen Day said he was disappointed to learn his senior prom was canceled COVID-19 also forced the cancellation of his junior prom last year. after his junior prom was canceled last year.

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“I’ve not had the opportunity to go to a prom throughout my high school career,” he said. “I hope the PTA members will be able to put together an adult-ran prom that’s not associated with the school to give the seniors a chance and feel of a prom.”

Because graduation is an academic celebration, the school system says it is planning to host in-person ceremonies, pending any changes to the governor’s current orders. A graduation task force has been working on a format for graduations this year, according to the message.

“We look forward to celebrating that milestone with each of you,” the message states.

Last year, HCPS had in-person individual commencement ceremonies for its roughly 2,700 graduating seniors. One at a time, students were able to walk across the stage at their high school auditorium and receive their diploma while a handful of family members were on-hand to watch and take photographs.

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