Kansas City Star: Can KC schools hold prom amid COVID?
by Sarah Ritter & Lisa Gutierrez
Demetrius Bush made some of the most important plays of his varsity basketball career in front of an empty gymnasium. He spent the last classes he’ll have with childhood friends staring at a computer screen. And now he’s touring colleges from his bedroom.
Still, when the Olathe North High School senior learned his school would allow prom this spring — a slice of tradition after a year of anything but — his first thought was, “Oh no.”
“I’m a bit worried because of the fact that COVID is still a thing,” the 17-year-old said. “It’s still taboo to be around a lot of people.”
Given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still warns against large gatherings, “I think it’s … dangerous,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control for the University of Kansas Health System. “There’s a lot of risk going on.”
Yet, officials are also offering guidance on how to do prom safely. Some urge teens to get vaccinated before the party — anyone 16 and older is now eligible in both Missouri and Kansas. Some districts have pushed back the date of their proms to give students more time to get their shots.
At some proms, there won’t be a dance floor at all. If anything, small groups of six or 10 students might be allowed to dance, spread apart at an outdoor venue. Some Kansas City area schools are going to Children’s Mercy Park, where Sporting KC plays, or opening up their football stadiums.
Most are requiring masks.
Even outdoors, especially if people are not safely distanced from one another, everyone at prom should mask up, said Dr. Angela Myers, division director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
She said it’s “probably not” realistic to think that students will stay in their required small groups and not mingle — or stay six feet apart — which makes mask-wearing even more important.
“Hopefully they’ll have their corsage on one wrist and the mask on the other when they take it off to eat or drink so they keep it with them and not set it down and then walk away from it,” said Myers. “Alternatively they can remind each other. I think people need to feel empowered to do that.”
Myers also would like to see school districts use prom season to encourage teenagers 16 and older to get vaccinated.
Children’s Mercy is hosting several clinics this month on both sides of the state line for residents 16 to 22, “so there will be plenty of opportunities for adolescents to get their vaccine before they go to prom,” she said. For information on how to sign up go to childrensmercy.org or call 816-234-3700.
Learn more about COVID-19 Vaccine at Children's Mercy