Seniors in the Santa Barbara Unified School District will soon be dressing up for prom and donning caps and gowns for graduation — two traditions administrators have molded to changing health and safety guidelines.
School staff and volunteers are working to ensure that although the events require masks, distancing and COVID-19 testing, seniors can still enjoy the occasion.
San Marcos High School’s prom, set for May 31, will trade a dance floor for video games, arcade games, a silent disco and more.
“The biggest question was whether students would be able to dance. If they can’t dance, what can we have them do in a group, if we can have them in a group?” San Marcos Assistant Principal Dr. Analese Alvarez told the News-Press.
A Royals alumna herself, Dr. Alvarez recalled her San Marcos prom from 25 years ago. The school held an after party with games to keep students up all night.
Administrators took this “after prom” idea from years ago as a concept for prom 2021. They hired an entertainment company and booked an 80-foot-long video game wall, arcade games, casino-style games and headphones for a silent disco.
The school’s PTSA (parent-teacher-student association) amplified the idea, pledging raffle prizes and food trucks.
“Our PTSA is so great. They, like us, are doing everything they can to support the senior class — which had a very wonky school year,” Dr. Alvarez said.
The PTSA has raised $5,755 so far of its $20,000 goal. It is also seeking to provide caps and gowns, yearbooks and prom tickets as part of its “adopt a senior” program.
To attend prom and graduation, participants must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of the event. San Marcos will hold a rapid COVID-19 test clinic for seniors attending prom.
The precaution is necessary for gatherings in the orange tier, per public health requirements. Gatherings are also limited to 300 attendees in the orange tier.
Because of the capacity limitation, prom is strictly for seniors. San Marcos prom tickets are almost sold out, according to Dr. Alvarez.
If the county moves to the yellow tier, the schools can welcome 400 students to prom and remove the vaccination and testing requirement.
Each high school created its own plan and altered ideas for each tier. The process started in the fall, and administrators have kept watch of community case rates.
Dos Pueblos High School will hold its prom May 29 at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Assistant Principal Dare Holdren anticipates hiring a magician and/or a comedian to entertain the students, and a DJ will play music.
Tables and chairs will be set up around the museum’s courtyard, spaced for social distancing. Students can also enjoy individually wrapped desserts and bottles of water in a separate eating area.
This Saturday, Santa Barbara High School’s newly renovated Peabody Stadium will provide a festival-like prom atmosphere.
There will be snacks from SBMunchiez, lawn games, giant jenga, ping pong and a hypnotist.
Graduations will be similar to previous years, with students walking across the stage. They will be spaced three feet apart, though, and are limited to four guests.
Those unable to attend in-person can view a livestream of commencement.
San Marcos High School seniors will wear Class of 2021 face masks to graduation.
The high schools’ graduation ceremonies will all be held the evening of June 2 at their respective stadiums.
San Marcos’s ceremony begins at 5 p.m., and Santa Barbara High’s and Dos Pueblos’s ceremonies begin at 6 p.m.
“I’m very much looking forward to the many school events planned in the coming days and weeks such as prom, promotions, graduation, and awards ceremonies,” Superintendent Dr. Hilda Maldonado shared in an email. “I thank everyone for their tireless efforts to create experiences that will create beautiful memories for our students as we begin the transition of closing out this historic school year.”