FCPS senior events committee launches petition aimed at getting Northam to ease restrictions on proms

It’s a rite of passage: make it through four years of high school and have prom at the end.

"Prom is kind of like a closure moment," said Vincent Nurmi, a senior at James Madison High School in Fairfax County.

"For me, it would mean that all the hard work I’ve been putting in was worth it," added McLean High School Senior Eliana Durkee.

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But for the class of 2021, because of the pandemic, prom may not be allowed.

It’s why a student-led group, the Fairfax County Public Schools Senior Events Committee, has launched a petition aimed at getting Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to ease restrictions on proms, along the lines of what he recently announced for graduations.

"What we’re hoping to achieve with this petition is to have safe and equitable proms across the whole county, and honestly across Virginia too," explained Madison High Senior Braden Holt. "We think graduation is more important for the parents, and prom is like the students’ big thing."

The students said their idea is to develop a blueprint for proms that could be held at schools throughout the Commonwealth. All would be held outside, students would be broken into smaller, separated groups to maintain social distance, and among other things, there wouldn’t be any food.

"It’s not gonna be the traditional prom that kids had before us because we just can’t make that work this year," Holt said, "but it’s gonna be the closest thing that we can do while following the governor’s guidelines."

Holt also pointed out that without a school-sponsored prom, there are likely to be private parties that won’t necessarily have the same precautions in place and could potentially leave a lot of students out.

"We want to make it as good as possible for all of the seniors, not just the ones who can afford to throw their own proms," Durkee added.

"We were all just kind of isolated on our desks for the whole year," Nurmi summed up, "so just to be a part of something one last time – well for the first time and the last time – would, you know, be kind of touching."

Northam’s office declined to comment.

A Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson said, "We understand how important traditional senior events like prom are for our students and we all want to be able to celebrate their milestones," but the district must follow the governor’s guidance.