Citing concerns about the coronavirus and large social gatherings, Rapid City Area Schools made the decision last week to cancel this year's junior/senior prom. That action prompted a local event company to step up to offer a post-graduation prom set for June 5 at the Civic Center.
HomeSlice Media's Brad Jurgensen made the announcement Monday with RCAS Superintendent Lori Simon.
Simon defended the school district's decision to cancel prom, normally scheduled for mid-April, because of concerns that a large social gathering could become a super-spreader event for students prior to the last few weeks of school.
"Like Sioux Falls and other large school districts in South Dakota, Rapid City Area Schools leadership made the unpopular decision to cancel prom last week," Simon said. "We believe that holding a large-scale event with 1,200-1,500 students, that by its very nature discourages physical distancing, is really tough to justify in this current climate. Certainly, the CDC has not changed any of its perspectives on such large-scale gatherings."
Simon said the No. 1 priority for the school district is to remain at level one for the rest of the school year, ensuring students complete the school year successfully and for seniors to be able to graduate without an outbreak of COVID-19.
"One or more cases of COVID-19 at an event like prom, where there is extreme close contact, could require hundreds of students to quarantine or cause an outbreak during the final weeks of school," she said. "It’s a risk we are unwilling to take."
However, having a private event company handle a large social event after the school year is over is an idea the district's administration "can get behind," Simon said.
"By holding the prom after graduation, we will reduce the risk of an outbreak in those important final weeks of school," she said. "While this event will be organized and held by HomeSlice Media Group, we will be handling ticket sales and help with security efforts to ensure that it is a safe event for our students."
Jurgensen said the topic of prom has become "hotly contested" on social media. He said HomeSlice Media wanted to step up and provide an alternative event for students after graduation.
"Our hope is that we can work with the school and parents who want to have a voice in this and start having a conversation about this," Jurgensen said. "We want to have a cool prom for our kids, keep it safe and how we can make sure everyone can attend."
Many of the details regarding the prom are yet to be announced, including what precautions will be in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among high school juniors and seniors attending the event. Jurgensen said HomeSlice Media will be making additional announcements about the prom in the coming days.
"We will still be working out a ton of details on this. There are a lot of moving parts, and we welcome reaching out and talking to a lot parents if they have any questions or concerns," he said. "We will obviously need some parents, school and local business support to make sure we can put on a cool prom for our kids."
Simon said she hopes everyone in the community can see the alternative prom arrangements as a win-win for the students. She said by holding prom after graduation, it will also allow health care providers to distribute more vaccinations for the coronavirus.
"If we wait until right after graduation, it can be a great way to end what has been really a long year and a half dealing with COVID at the school level," Simon said. "I think (it) would be an exciting way to end the school year on a positive note before we return to what we anticipate will be a more normal school year in the fall."
Contact Nathan Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.