AACPS Proms Canceled; Graduations Might Be Next

AACPS 2021 Proms Canceled; Graduations Might Be Next

Annapolis, MD (Arundel.news & AAFA) - Less than two weeks after returning to in person learning, Anne Arundel County seniors are finding out one of the most anticipated events for their class, won't be happening. Anne Arundel County public high school students will not have a prom for the second year in a row. 2020 proms and graduations were canceled during statewide lockdowns and a ban on large events. Students now face the stark possibility that they won't have a normal graduation either. 

According to a letter from AACPS Schools Superintendent George Arlotto, released today, the decision came down to distancing guidelines and venue deposits. Current state guidelines in Maryland limit capacity at entertainment venues to 50 percent. In his letter, Dr. Arlotto says the limitations, with no foreseeable end date, forced AACPS to table plans for 2021 Spring proms. AACPS leadership says it held meetings with administrators to develop options, but a suitable plan could not be put in place. Deposits to secure venues that would hold proms are due now, so AACPS says it made the choice not to reserve locations for events that may not take place. 

“We had certainly hoped that as our state continues to climb out of this pandemic that we would be in a position to provide this opportunity for our high school students,” Dr. Arlotto said. “However, we are regrettably forced by deposit payment deadlines to make a decision at this point and we see little that leads us to believe the restrictions will be lifted to an extent in the near future where we could hold proms in a way that would be meaningful and fun for all students who want to attend. I don’t want to go so far down this road that schools and families of students lose money on an event that, in the end, doesn’t happen.”

Arlotto says there is no way to stay in line with current health guidelines for large events like a prom.

“As we reopen schools, we are focused on trying to do as much for our students as we can, especially in terms of high school and, particularly, senior activities,” Dr. Arlotto said. “We looked at things like splitting proms into multiple sessions and limiting attendance to just seniors. Those don’t create a fun or enjoyable atmosphere for anyone.”

Senior graduations remain in limbo as well, with AACPS administrators meeting regularly to discuss ways to hold ceremonies safely. 

“I remain committed to doing everything we can to hold a meaningful, in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021,” he said. “We are continuing to discuss a variety of options in that regard.”

Arundel News will continue to provide updates on this developing story. Read the entire release from AACPS below: 

”ONGOING COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS FORCE CANCELLATION OF HIGH SCHOOL PROMS

Citing the continuing COVID-19 restrictions on venue usage and physical distancing and a priority to focus on planning graduation exercises and other celebrations for seniors, Anne Arundel County Public Schools will not hold traditional high school proms this spring, Superintendent George Arlotto announced today.

“We had certainly hoped that as our state continues to climb out of this pandemic that we would be in a position to provide this opportunity for our high school students,” Dr. Arlotto said. “However, we are regrettably forced by deposit payment deadlines to make a decision at this point and we see little that leads us to believe the restrictions will be lifted to an extent in the near future where we could hold proms in a way that would be meaningful and fun for all students who want to attend. I don’t want to go so far down this road that schools and families of students lose money on an event that, in the end, doesn’t happen.”

A stipulation in Governor Larry Hogan’s latest executive order calls for entertainment venues to operate at no more than 50 percent capacity, and guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stipulate that high school students should maintain 6 feet of physical distance and be masked when in each other’s company to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Arlotto said high school principals explored many different options as they tried to come up with a plan to conduct proms safely while remaining in compliance with all applicable Department of Health requirements.

“As we reopen schools, we are focused on trying to do as much for our students as we can, especially in terms of high school and, particularly, senior activities,” Dr. Arlotto said. “We looked at things like splitting proms into multiple sessions and limiting attendance to just seniors. Those don’t create a fun or enjoyable atmosphere for anyone.”

Dr. Arlotto made clear he and school system leaders continue to meet with high school principals and students about options regarding graduation ceremonies.

“I remain committed to doing everything we can to hold a meaningful, in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021,” he said. “We are continuing to discuss a variety of options in that regard.”

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