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Private Student Dances Held During Pandemic


Lauren Copeland, Camille Steiger, Ruby Roberts, Micah Long and Elizabeth Toomey put on masks while posing for photographs in their prom dresses in Milton, Mass May 16, 2020. (REUTERS/Faith Ninivaggi)
Private Student Dances Held During Pandemic
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Bedford High School in the state of New Hampshire had to cancel its traditional prom this year because of the coronavirus health crisis.

Most American high school students attend prom - a yearly formal dance – to celebrate the end of the school year.

But as the spread of the coronavirus continues, such events are rarely happening.

So to celebrate in a different way, nearly 100 recent Bedford High School graduates got dressed up last weekend and held their own private prom. It was one of several dances held around the U.S. as education officials continue to debate reopening schools in the fall.

In some places hardest hit by the virus, similar dance plans were canceled. But in New Hampshire, officials permitted the events to go forward, urging organizers and attendees to follow distancing rules meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said last month, “We’re asking folks to be smart about it, but I’m not going to be the guy in ‘Footloose’ who says, ‘No dancing in my town.’”

“Footloose” is a 1984 film about teenagers who go against the rules of town officials to hold a dance of their own. New Hampshire rules covering places where weddings and other events are held do not ban dancing. But they advise against it unless dancers stay with members of their own household or remain at least 2 meters apart.

In Missouri, Jefferson City High School seniors organized their own prom last month after their first plans got canceled. In Michigan, Chippewa Valley High School parents organized a combined prom, after-party and senior awards ceremony.

But plans to hold private proms were canceled this month in Montana and Georgia because of rising numbers of coronavirus infections. Health officials in Illinois said 10 people linked to an “unofficial prom” held at a home in June later tested positive for the virus.

The Bedford High prom was held last Saturday in a tent at the Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown. While more than 300 seniors graduated, attendance was limited to 100 people.

Carol Justic’s daughter attended the prom. Justic was there herself as a chaperone, a responsible adult who supervises young people. At first, she said she had concerns about food service and dancing. But she said the chaperones made sure no more than six teens were at each table. And students wore face coverings when entering and leaving the tent.

Justic added, “As a mom it makes you proud and teary because they’re doing the right thing.”

Andrea Gately helped organize the prom for her son and his classmates. She said they were instructed to stand near friends with whom they had arrived or were sitting. However, the students did stand together for a group picture.

Gately noted that prom often represents a “right of passage,” or something that many young people experience. She said the event was also important for “the girls who had always dreamed of going to senior prom and they buy these fabulous dresses, and they don’t have an opportunity to wear them.”

Gately added, “Everyone I’ve talked to is saying, ‘Thank you for doing this for the kids.”

Justic said she did see some criticism on social media, but that most parents were supportive.

But unlike in the movie “Footloose,” there was not much dancing last Saturday. “They were a little nervous, but they also were a little done at that point,” Justic said.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Holly Ramer reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.

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Words in This Story

formaladj. following or according with established form, custom, or rule

folksn. people

nervousadj. having or showing feelings of being worried and afraid about what might happen

opportunityn. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

proudadj. very happy and pleased because of something you have done, something you own, someone you know or are related to, etc.; feeling pride

tentn. a portable shelter that is used outdoors, is made of cloth such as canvas or nylon, and is held up with poles and ropes

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