PARMA, Ohio — The coronavirus outbreak didn’t stop Parma High School students from going to an unofficial prom Thursday night. School officials canceled the event this school year due to safety concerns, but a group of parents pulled off the event themselves hoping to give students a memorable and safe night to remember.
They were met with signs requiring masks in order to enter the LaVilla Conference and Banquet Center and reminded to stay six-feet apart from others. It’s not exactly how Parma High School seniors thought their senior prom night would go, but they didn’t think this night would happen at all.
“I’m thrilled. I am so excited. I feel like this is the safest way to do this. It’s absolutely amazing honestly we’re so happy to have this,” said senior, Emilee Brilla. "I only get to do this once in my life and if I can do it safely then absolutely I’m going to do it.”
Many of the students told News 5 they were bummed when they learned Parma High School canceled prom this school year.
“I was really upset like I cried for quite a few nights about it especially like he our prom was supposed to be in May like that was a hard day for us,” said senior, Mckayla Ezinski.”
Superintendent Charles Smialek says coronavirus disrupted their plans and timing wasn’t on their side.
“They [the state] didn’t really relax the orders in terms of banquet halls until later sometime in June,” he explained.
So, a few parents took matters into their own hands and hosted a private prom night for students. Tickets went on sale last month for $60 per person, according to a flier posted on Facebook. Dinner and professional photos were included.
“Just being honest we tried to distance ourselves from it because of the safety concerns,” Smialek said when asked about the event. “The end of the year has come and we don’t necessarily have jurisdiction so to speak over our kids at this point, but it’s a great opportunity for our kids to enjoy what it is a right of passage that has been taken from them by the virus.”
The state’s orders ban mass gatherings but allow events like weddings with 300 people or less.
Taylor Higginbotham who helped organize the event says tables were set more than six feet apart and the venue operated at 10% capacity with nearly 90 students and 10 other chaperones allowed inside. The owner, who didn’t wish to speak on camera, donated masks and provided sanitation stations.
“All students and parents signed waivers. They knew what we were doing. They knew we would take the steps to make sure that it was safe,” Higginbotham said.