More milestones missed? York County school districts unsure of 2021 proms, graduations

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Graduates toss their caps during the York Suburban High School graduation ceremony Thursday, May 26, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

Another graduating class of high school seniors could miss out on traditional milestone celebrations as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.

With just a few months left before the end of the school year, several York County school districts still have not settled on their plans for prom or graduation ceremonies. 

Officials from Northern York County and York Suburban school districts said they have not committed to a specific plan for prom or graduation. Some local districts set a date for prom on their online calendars, but most of them were tentative dates. 

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Students arrive at the Central York High School Prom at the Valencia Ballroom in York City Saturday, May 18, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

The COVID-19 pandemic caused high schools across the country, including most in York County, to cancel last year's prom and drastically change graduation ceremonies to meet safety protocols at the time.

Nicole Montgomery, spokesperson for the Dallastown Area School District, said district officials are struggling to finalize their plans because they don't know what the guidelines for the events will be in the coming months. 

Like other districts, Dallastown also did not have a plan set for prom or graduation until recently. The district announced Thursday that they are planning a formal Senior Banquet in place of senior prom on May 8, along with three other celebratory events for seniors outside of graduation. 

Dallastown officials are considering two options for graduation in June, according to the announcement. One option is a traditional graduation ceremony that follows active state safety guidelines, while the other option involves individual senior ceremonies with a virtual commencement. 

Montgomery said high school officials met with seniors several times to develop plans for senior celebrations this year. She said while students are understanding of the safety parameters their schools must follow, they also want to experience the celebratory events earlier senior classes experienced.

Students and their guests arrive for York Tech's prom at Wisehaven Event Center in Windsor Township, Friday, May 17, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"They've lived their entire senior year during the pandemic," Montgomery said. 

Northern York County Superintendent Steven Kirkpatrick said high school officials are also meeting with a student committee on Friday to discuss the best way to honor seniors this year. 

At the Southern York County School District, Assistant Superintendent Robert Bryson said the district is planning a senior-only prom held outdoors later this year. He said they are also planning an outdoor graduation ceremony, but details on both events have not been solidified yet. 

West Shore School District is not holding a prom at either of its two high schools, Superintendent Todd Stoltz announced Thursday. The district is holding graduation ceremonies, however. Red Land and Cedar Cliff high schools will  each hold two graduation ceremonies in early June. If safety protocols change before then, the district will hold one ceremony per school. 

In the coming days, hundreds of York County teachers are to  receive the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, as part of a plan released by Gov. Tom Wolf last week. Wolf aims to give all Pennsylvania educators and support staff access to the vaccine by the end of March. 

However, Montgomery said the announcement made little impact on Dallastown's prom or graduation plans. Because few people under 18 will likely receive the vaccine by the end of the school year, she said it doesn't change how the district is planning the events.