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The City Journals

Teens are more than ready for first school dance of the year

Apr 07, 2021 12:09PM ● By Jet Burnham

Students from West Jordan High School take pictures before Prom 2019. (Photo courtesy of Meagan Benson.)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

After more than a year without school dances, Copper Hills and West Jordan high schools will both be holding a junior prom.

“Our students have been chomping at the bit for almost a year now, hoping that the restrictions would be relaxed to allow them to hold a dance,” WJHS Principal Jim Birch said. “There were actually some tears shed in the SBO room when my administration team and I made the announcement.”

Students are excited to regain some normal school activities that have been cancelled by the pandemic.

“We're all getting super excited,” CHHS junior class ambassador Julia Basinger said. “It's just fun to see that our world is going a little bit back to normal.”

WJHS junior Cami Curtis said it has been a hard year without the usual activities that bring school spirit and unity.

“Most of our students have just gotten very disconnected—going offline and online, not being able to see their friends, having masks, not being able to hug each other every now and then, and then actually getting COVID-19—so it felt like a very big disconnect,” she said. “And so a dance means to them that it's starting to become more of a normal life. I think that they're just excited to start to feel connected to their school again.”

WJHS junior Kybin Al-Mosawi said prom feels like the reward for everything they’ve been doing to reduce the case numbers. 

“It's just been awesome to see everyone doing their part and pushing so that we can actually have events and be able to do things that we normally would,” Kybin said. “They know that we may not get another big event this year, so they're very happy and grateful that we're able to at least have one event that feels like normal.”

At CHHS, the excitement for prom is building but with some skepticism. 

“Students have had so much of their social parts of school taken that they are reluctant to get their hopes up,” student government adviser Scott Adamson said. “They are like a person that got left at the altar, and they are guarded because of it.”

When the announcement was made in early March, both WJHS and CHHS scheduled their proms for April 24, giving junior class officers time to prepare and time for the excitement to build.

“Once the details were laid out, protocols were established, planning got underway and announcements were made, you could sense an increased level of morale, excitement and positive energy throughout the halls,” CHHS Principal Bryan Veazie said.

Because dances were cancelled halfway through the school year last year, many sophomores and juniors have never been to a school dance. CHHS junior class president Aidan Sullivan said school dances are an important part of the high school experience.

“It brings us together as a school, and it brings school spirit,” Aidan said.

Dances have been a hot topic this year. Veazie said there have been numerous discussions and creative proposals from students and parents looking for a way to resume school dances.

“Dances are seen as one of those rites of passage and culminating events that timestamp the traditions of high school and create memories that last a lifetime,” Veazie said.

Some students and parents have opted to hold their own private dances, but students said they lacked the feeling of school unity.

“When we are all at dances, we all bond more since we're all together in one area, and so everyone can talk to everybody, and so it's just more fun that way,” CHHS junior class historian Larissa Vea said.

These private dances have been a concern for the Jordan Board of Education, whose priority has been student safety.

“When we did not hold homecoming dances, many of the students went to black market underground, and they did their own,” board vice president Bryce Dunford said. “Rather than holding it at a school where they were supervised and we could control the safety, they just did their own thing. There was a massive spike in the case numbers right after homecoming. So, coming into the spring, with prom and other dances coming up, we were really hoping to find a way that we could hold these dances safely.”

Seeing the success of the test-to-play protocol used to keep schools open and sports and activities going, the board voted unanimously to approve the same protocol to allow high schools to have a prom and a senior dinner dance. To attend, students will be required to wear a mask and to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 48 hours.

Proms will be held in each school’s gymnasium instead of the traditional State Capitol Building. Both schools are planning spirit-building activities during the week of the dance. CHHS will celebrate spirit week with daily dress-up themes. The winners of their Grizzly Games scavenger hunt will win prom tickets. WJHS will hold class spirit competitions during their Spirit Bowl, an annual school spirit activity which was postponed until April so it could be held more safely outdoors and also be the kickoff event to prom weekend.

“We're going to bring all that school spirit right into prom, and we're going to make it super, super fun,” WJHS junior class president Macy Dulgarian said.