Published March 30, 2021
By ANDREW WANG
In a typical year, Carmel High School would be arranging details for its annual May senior festivities: a themed prom event at a special venue or boat on San Francisco Bay and a senior trip to Universal Studios that spans into the early morning. Because CHS will not be hosting an official prom and senior trip this year, CUSD parents have stepped in to plan these events, with the hope of introducing some normalcy for the senior class.
“I wanted to let the kids have some of their senior events and not miss out on everything,” says Lisa Morgan, the Padre Parents president and organizer for the senior trip.
Morgan began planning the trip in January when she received word from CHS teacher Nora Ward, who usually organizes the event, that the school had no plans to host it this year. Morgan’s plan is similar to the traditional trip: Students will be transported to Universal Studios on Thursday, May 27, and stay there until 2 a.m. the next morning, with a cost of $269 per student.
Around the same time this winter, Melissa Krueger and her crew of 10 to 20 CUSD parents began work on arranging a third-party prom. Like Morgan’s, the goal was to put together an event that would provide as close of an experience to past years’ occasions.
“Keeping with as many CHS prom traditions as possible was important to us,” Krueger says. “To do that, we brought together a focus group of graduates that went to prom before — Class of 2019, Class of 2018. We wanted to glean from them what was most memorable about prom, since this year’s seniors hadn’t had their junior prom.”
From this surveying, they found that past students valued prom for being a sober, formal event with music and dinner. The current plan is that the dance will take place May 15 starting at around 6 p.m. at a currently undetermined two-acre private venue within district lines. Parents will be expected to check in their child for liability purposes.
“My hope would be that the seniors would do what has always been done,” Krueger says. “You’d go with your parents to Pebble Beach for photos or go to Mission Ranch for photos, and then you’d be dropped off at the high school where the transportation took you to prom. It won’t be at the high school because it’s not an officially sanctioned event, but we’ll have a location where the parents will sign the kids in.”
For some seniors, the potential safety risks associated with having the senior class all in one place are a big enough concern to warrant not attending.
“It’s not going to be the same as it would’ve been so I think I’ll stay home,” senior Hayley Armstrong says. “It just seems super irresponsible to have all these people gathered together, especially knowing that all these high schoolers probably aren’t going to be social distancing and wearing masks all the time. It’s a lot of people in one place.”
In contrast, some parents are excited about the prospect of their kids attending these events.
“I am thrilled about the senior trip to Universal Studios,” says Brenda Snow, a CHS senior parent. “I don’t want to speak for the students, but will only say that the students I know that are going on this trip are excited to feel some sense of normalcy returning to their lives in hope of the future that lies beyond all of their hard work since preschool.”
Using the events as a means to reward the work done in high school is important to many attending seniors, including Jared Bethea, who estimates that about 90% of his friends plan on going to both trips.
“I feel like as seniors we’ve worked all throughout high school for these trips, for the prom and for the senior trip,” Bethea says. “These are things that we’ve been looking forward to. Being able to experience them and still be safe would be a big takeaway.”
Unlike past years, the prom committee hopes to make the event free or low cost to CHS seniors, although tickets for non-CHS seniors may be limited and remain priced. Instead of the usual fee of $150 to $200 depending on when the ticket was bought, parents opted to reach out to community donors for fundraising and have raised approximately $20,000 out of their goal of $29,500. If they reach this goal, the committee believes it will be able to host all members of the senior class.
“Parents are donating their time, expertise and money so that the seniors can celebrate as a class,” says Kate Gallaway, another parent on the prom committee. “It is fun to see what can be accomplished by such a talented and motivated group of parents. Local businesses are stepping up too. There is a ton of positive energy in our communications which feels great after such a hard year.”
As far as COVID-19 safety goes, the planners of prom and the senior trip have stated that attending students will be expected to follow whatever state regulations and guidelines are in place by the time the event rolls around, which may mean masks and appropriate social distancing. Both events will be chaperoned.
Morgan has opted to organize the senior trip with WorldStrides, the student travel company CHS usually uses and one that she personally has experience with in her two years of planning the east coast trip at Carmel Middle School. WorldStrides is planning to send two buses to pick up CHS students, each of which seats 54 people, but the buses unfortunately leave little room for social distancing.
Regarding CHS’ decision to not host these events this year, Principal Jon Lyons states that the administration did not want to raise false hope in a time of uncertainty.
“We just didn’t feel like we’d be in a position to offer those events, so rather than bring a false sense of hope, we just decided to not do them this year,” Lyons says. “The school is not sponsoring the parent-led efforts, we are merely providing information as a courtesy.”