NC students, parents angry after high school cancels prom despite drop in COVID-19 cases

North Carolina news

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (WJZY) – Mooresville High School students will return to in-person learning in a week but a senior prom isn’t going to happen, despite a recent drop in COVID-19 cases and an increase in people getting vaccinated.

“I think that it’s crap,” said parent Jessica Nichols, who offered to sign a waiver. “I don’t think it’s fair to the seniors.”

The school’s announcement, made in a Facebook post on Friday, garnered more than 150 comments, mostly from angry parents.

“After careful thought and consideration, we have made the difficult decision to cancel prom for 2021,” the post on Mooresville High School’s Facebook page read. “Many options were discussed, but given the social distancing requirements and capacity limitations, a viable option is not attainable at this time.”

“COVID has been really hard for high school seniors,” said Melanie Martignoni, 18, a senior, who just spent hundreds of dollars on a dress that she got altered.

“It’s all we have to look forward to,” she said. “Because we have to quarantine, we have to be so alone, and whenever we go to high school we want to see our friends. We want to be close to them.”

Last year, her junior prom was also canceled due to COVID-19. So, she held her own in her backyard. She says if the school won’t hold one this year for seniors, she’ll do it again.

In the parking lot of the empty school, she asked one of her friends to go to her backyard prom.

“You can come to my prom,” she said.

“Oh? Is this, like, a deal?,” asked Andrew Flatts, 18.

“Yeah,” said Martignoni. “Well, if you bring the skateboard.”

Flatts gave her a high-five and agreed to go.

Martignoni showed WJZY a photo of a dress that cost her $400, which took her six months to save.

“It was the last dress I tried on and I knew it was perfect as soon as I put it on,” she said. “And, I had never been more excited for a piece of clothing probably ever in my life.”

WJZY reached out to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services but did not hear back. School district officials say they are just following state social distancing requirements for students in grades six through 12. The decision to cancel prom is about keeping students, staff, and the community safe, officials said.

Martignoni is a cheerleader and questions why sporting events are allowed to take place, with fans in attendance, but prom can’t. She says it’s unfair.

“Having all the sports events and being super close,” she said, “it should be the same as prom.”

Emily Foster, 17, understands the school’s stance but wishes the event could still go on. She also bought a dress and paid to have it altered.

“I’ve always been the type to want to go to prom really bad ever since I was in middle school,” said Foster, who remembers how excited she was to see her sister go. “I understand the restrictions that COVID has had but I feel there’s other opportunities you can do, like have an outside venue.”

Online, parents voiced support for finding an outside venue. Some, supported the district’s decision as a safe and prudent move given COVID-19 concerns.

Back at the school, the three students are preparing to return to in-person learning next week. Right now, all they can think about is missing out on a rite-of-passage event they have been looking forward to for years.

“Prom is like one event that you can actually go and sit around your friends,” said Martignoni.

“And have a good night,” added Foster.

“And it’s an experience that is not only for one group of people but everyone,” said Flatts.

“It sucks,” said Martignoni, leaning up against a pickup truck.

“And especially like for us,” said Foster. “Since we already bought our prom dresses and got them altered. That’s the biggest thing.”

“It’s pretty upsetting,” Flatts told WJZY. “That I can’t have that experience where other schools can.”

School District Statement

The Mooresville Graded School District sent WJZY the following statement:

“Mooresville Graded School District has followed the NCDHHS StrongSchools document throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and will continue to do so for the safety of our students, staff, and community and because we are told to follow it.  According to the most recent update, the state still mandates students in grades 6 through 12, whether indoor or outdoor, be a minimum of 6 feet apart. We understand the parent’s frustration when they see athletics being held with less than the 6 feet social distancing; however, the NCHSAA also has guidelines regarding athletics that we follow.  As to the contradictions between the NCDHHS and NCHSAA, we would direct you to those organizations.  Should the state eliminate the 6 ft social distancing guidelines for grades 6 through 12, we will reconsider our decision regarding prom.”-Tanae Sump-McLean, chief communication officer, Mooresville Graded School District.

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