Local schools prepare for a different kind of prom

Local schools prepare for a different kind of prom

While some Florida high schools have scrapped prom this year, Alachua County schools will be holding the event with a new set of rules addressing COVID-19.

Those rules, approved by the district, include physical distancing at least 3 feet apart from others if outdoors, and at least 6 feet apart from each other if indoors.

According to Jason Stanford, a member of the COVID-19 Response Team for Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS), the district decided to hold the events to make sure students were not denied the tradition.

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“While many districts canceled, thankfully we had this medical advisory group agree that end-of-year events are important for social growth and mental health,” Stanford said. “We know there is a safe way to do things.”

Prescott Cowles, also a member of the ACPS COVID-19 Response Team, added that the timing of vaccinations being administered in Alachua County schools during the last two weeks of April plays a role in holding prom.

According to ACPS spokesperson Jackie Johnson, so far about 470 students have been vaccinated at recent high school vaccine clinics in the district. That’s out of about 5,000 eligible students, but it does not include those who may have received a vaccine at local pharmacies and other vaccine clinics. 

On April 22, News4Jax reported that 10 Duval County schools canceled prom due to the lack of interest after the Duval County Public School district adopted guidelines for the event.

Social distancing at a dance might be a challenge, but Stanford said students will make it work.

“Throughout the past year, students have been adaptive,” he said. “When they get an opportunity like this, they are going to take the steps to do it safely.”

Stanford listed mitigation efforts, including masking, vaccination and hand washing hygiene. He acknowledged that “with distancing, it’s not going to be a typical prom.” 

All events will be held outdoors and Stanford said he expects students will figure out a way to enjoy the milestone event despite some restrictions and new rules.

“These are milestones for young people that we have all gone through,” he said. “We want to make sure they get to celebrate. This is the year for creativity and we’ve got smart kids.”

Newberry High School is holding its prom outdoors this Friday at Granville Plantation.

“Don’t forget to submit your nominations for Prom King and Queen!” an announcement on the school Facebook page reads.

The complete list of prom guidelines is posted on the ACPS website (page 19).

The ACPS district administration, the COVID-19 Response Team and the Scientific Medical Advisory Committee (SMAC) submitted event plans for approval last month.

Guidelines for Prom

➔ Events must be held after May 1.

➔ Events must be held outdoors when possible.

➔ If a prom is held at an indoor venue, it must be scheduled after the last day on campus for seniors.


➔ Designate a method to limit event attendance based on the capacity of the venue. For example, schools may opt to limit attendance to only students from their school and/or based on grade level.

➔ Maintain a roster with contact information and emergency contact information for each event attendee.


➔ A negative COVID-19 test will be requested (but cannot be required) 2-3 days before the event for all attendees. Pre-event COVID-19 testing can be coordinated for all attendees at Fearnside or can be organized by schools or individuals.

➔ Schools may arrange for on-site rapid testing on their own.


➔ Implement a no-contact check-in process.

➔ Ask each guest to review a posted wellness checklist and complete a wellness self-monitoring before entering the space.

Symptoms of COVID-19

➔ Inform guests of the safety requirements in advance of the event, including encouraging staff and attendees to stay home if they are sick.

➔ Identify and create an isolation room or area to separate anyone who experiences COVID-19 symptoms during the event.

➔ Develop procedures for safely transporting anyone who is sick to their home or to a healthcare facility.

Mitigation Strategies

➔ Ensure face coverings are worn in all settings.

➔ Ensure that face coverings are available for attendees upon entry.

➔ Ensure that hand sanitizer is available to all attendees throughout the event venue.

➔ Ensure that attendees physically distance themselves at least 3 feet apart from others if outdoors, and at least 6 feet apart from each other if indoors.


➔ Serving food at events is discouraged. Food may only be provided if individually packaged and served to attendees.

➔ If food is available at events, it is strongly recommended that it is only a “grab and go” option.

➔ If food is available and eaten on-site, there must be a designated seated eating area with adequate physical distancing.

After the Event

➔ Post-event quarantine is not required, but attendees should carefully monitor for symptoms.

➔ Designate and communicate a specific point of contact and method for attendees to notify the school if they test positive for COVID-19 after the event.

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