Senior Parents and Students to Host Private Prom

A few senior parents and students have planned a private senior prom as a result of the school prom’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are planning to hold the prom at the Oasis on Saturday, Apr. 17. This event is not sponsored by the school or the district. 

“What a year it has been,” the unofficial Instagram of the Class of 2021 said. “The seniors have had so many events taken away from them, including even spending their days at school with their peers.”

The idea for this event originated when parents had received an email on Feb. 26 from the district stating the cancellation of prom, and that any private proms held wouldn’t be affiliated with RRISD. A senior parent, Ms. Trish Baizer, saw the idea of private proms in the email, and decided to host one if no other parent was hosting. She set up a committee of parents to plan the meeting. 

“We had our first prom committee meeting on Sunday, Feb. 28,” parent Denise Haverda said. “Tuesday, Mar. 2, the Oasis was rented, and a deposit was paid to secure the room, and the prom invitation was created.”

Masks are mandated at this event, and there will be temperature checks upon entrance. The parents planning this event limited the number of people who can attend, booking the Oasis at 75% capacity, and having a maximum of 300 people on the rooftop. 

“Students must show proper identification, and check in at the door, with no re-entry privileges,” Ms. Haverda said. “In addition to having parental chaperones, we will have the presence of the Travis County Sheriff’s department. All food will be served by the Oasis waitstaff as well, so there will be no cross handling of any of the food products or silverware.”

There are going to be professional photographers to capture the sunset at the Oasis, a photo booth, and a DJ. For food, there are going to be appetizers, fajitas, and unlimited sodas, lemonade, and cake. Tickets are between $70 to $280 depending on the events someone wants to participate in.  Students cannot RSVP on their own; it must be done by a parent.

“Depending on the number of tickets sold, or the ability to secure sponsors, we are hoping to be able to do some fun giveaways too,” Ms. Haverda said.  

There are some parents who support the idea of this prom because they want their seniors to end their senior year on a high note. Parents are concerned about their children’s mental health, with them not being able to see their friends, and having school virtually the entire year. Some parents also feel that it isn’t fair that their children aren’t able to experience the fun prom is supposed to be. 

“A prom is not going to change [the fact that students have been learning virtually, and have not seen their friends], but it can be one night of normal American rite-of-passage fun,” Ms. Haverda said. “Parents all around RRISD are putting on private proms because they feel the same way. Our school could have, and should have, done better by our seniors. Rules are being loosened. Vaccines are being distributed. Our numbers have been going down. The students are among the least likely to be seriously impacted by COVID-19, but the most likely to be impacted emotionally and mentally. Prom is optional.”  

There are students who are against the idea of this prom, worried about the pandemic that is still going on. They don’t think gathering in groups is the best choice of action at the moment, and it’s not worth the risk to be holding these private proms. 

“I am in no means bashing anyone who is going,” an anonymous student said. “I just think the thought of wanting to gather in massive amounts of people is insane. There is no assurance that people will be socially distant the whole time, and if there is food or drinks, people will take their masks off. It’s just crazy to me.”

An issue the parents involved in planning have is the school administration not advertising their proms. They find a problem with the fact that not many seniors are going to know about this prom, and may be disheartened later to find out it existed. Principal Dr. Mario Acosta has said there’s no reason for him to advertise private parties. 

“Let’s say, after graduation, there’s some family in our community that says ‘Hey, I’m going to throw a big party for a bunch of other students and families’,” Dr. Acosta said. “If they came to me and said ‘Hey, Dr. Acosta, will you publicize this personal party of mine’, I would have the same answer. The answer would be no because as a school, it’s not appropriate, nor is it within my scope to advertise for outside entities or personal parties and things like that.”

Dr. Acosta and the rest of the administration want to make certain that everyone who attends events like these knows that these aren’t affiliated with the district or the school. Student safety is a priority, and they agree with the district’s decision to cancel prom.

“While it breaks my heart, for the senior class especially, as this wouldn’t be right for they didn’t get a junior prom, and then to not have the ability to have a senior prom, I completely understand that disappointment, and I share it with our seniors,” Dr Acosta said. “But on the other side of it, my number one job is to make sure my students are safe, healthy, and happy. We couldn’t think of a way to hold a prom that would keep students safe. There’s never anything I would do in my career that would put students in harm’s way.”