WEST HARTFORD — Prom plans are moving ahead for West Hartford’s public high schools.
Both Conard and Hall high schools are planning proms on the Farmington Polo Grounds over Memorial Day weekend — May 29 for Conard and May 30 for Hall.
And just last week, Gov. Ned Lamont shared two dates in May Connecticut residents could expect to see more COVID-19 restrictions lifted: May 1 and May 19. Lamont said in that news conference there wouldn’t be “any gathering size limitations after May 19.”
After the governor’s announcement of that timeline, Conard High School Principal Julio Duarte said on April 22 that he’s hoping all Conard seniors who want to go to the school’s prom would be able to, but he’s waiting for representatives from the polo grounds to confirm that as of last week.
Duarte said they would originally been “looking at” capping the event’s capacity.
“We were certainly planning and had multiple plans in place to deal with all the various options that could come up, but our No. 1 hope and option was that all students would be able to attend, which is where I think we’ll end up landing now, which is great,” Duarte said.
Hall High School Principal Dan Zittoun said it had been “challenging” to find a location to accommodate a large senior class. Competing for venues with pushed-back weddings and the timing of AP exams also posed challenges, according to Zittoun.
Another challenge was not wanting to have prom and graduation too close together if “some positive cases” came up, requiring quarantines, Zittoun said.
“It didn’t give us a large window of dates available, so we’re excited to be able to do the Sunday. And it’s Memorial Day weekend, which we know is challenging for some families who want to go away but to be able to have Monday off from school, and not have any AP exams and have enough distance away from graduation. It has checked off a lot of boxes for us,” he said.
It hasn’t been determined yet whether the event will be “just a social gathering event” or if there will also be a sit-down dinner, according to Zittoun.
“I think there’s some advantages and disadvantages to both options,” he said.
The state has touched on plans for mask-wearing moving forward, with expectations that the requirement would phase out for outdoors in early May. Indoor mask-wearing is currently expected to last as a requirement for some time longer.
Duarte said they have been telling students that masks will be a requirement at prom, and Zittoun said he didn’t “see any reason” that mask-wearing would cease for prom, as well as graduation.
At a high school in Shelton, students who opted into distance learning weren’t going to be permitted to attend prom, unless they switched to in-person learning by the beginning of May. But both Zittoun and Duarte affirmed remote learners would be included in their schools’ end-of-year events.
For prom, Zittoun said, “from a safety standpoint, I think we’re looking to kind of keep it with the senior class,” but that some students may advocate to change that with gathering restrictions currently in flux.
Zittoun said it was “wonderful” to see events like prom move forward. Seniors last year and this year have had “to sacrifice so much in terms of these rites of passage,” he said.
“It’s really gratifying to be able to kind of give them these opportunities and these steps toward normalcy,” he said.