Proms across the country have been cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19, and some local parents are planning an alternative celebration.

“Hopefully it will be a really memorable night,” Karen Ketler said.

She’s part of a committee that is organizing a prom for Grove City High School juniors and seniors. It’s set for Saturday evening at John R. Huff American Legion Post 220, 1946 Mercer-Grove City Road, Pine Township.

Ketler notes that the school district is not connected to this event, which starts with a grand march at 5 p.m. at the Guthrie Theatre in Grove City.

The high school prom was supposed to be held in May. The district has moved it to July 10 at the Park Inn at Radisson in Shenango Township, and it’s for seniors only, according to information posted on the district’s website, which notes that there will be no dancing in an effort to maintain social distancing.

“They’ve lost out on so much this year,” Ketler said of pandemic shutdown.

She and others wanted to do something special for the students, and plans for the prom have quickly fallen into place.

Ketler, who has two sons in the district, has been joined by fellow parents Leslie Renick, Monica Craig, Kristen Hovis, Tina Deliere, Denise Louise, Shannon Frost and Allysen Byers.

Along with help from students including Maddy Corbin, they have lined up enough support from community members and local businesses so that there is no admission fee.

Word has spread quickly via social media; they set up a Facebook page, “GCHS prom,” which includes updates and ticket information.

So far, about 180 students, including guests, are planning to attend. GCHS juniors and seniors who still want to sign up can contact Corbin, Ketler said.

Organizers have been reviewing COVID-19 prevention guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and attendees recognize the risks of attending this event, she said.

State mandates limit large gatherings to no more than 250 people, and state officials encourage masks outside the home.

The students will not be required to wear masks, which Ketler said would be difficult to enforce.

Those who attend the grand march will be spread out in the theater as the students walk across the stage. Masks are recommended for spectators.

The march will also be livestreamed. A link will be posted on the group’s Facebook page.

While it’s not a school event, the students will still be expected to adhere to appropriate conduct and behavior – similar to rules set for a school dance, Ketler said.

Students who have already registered will receive a T-shirt that lists the businesses sponsoring the prom, which will include a DJ, food, and decorations depicting the original prom theme, “Masquerade.”

“We have had some very, very generous donations from people in the community,” Ketler said, adding that the American Legion discounted the venue rate.

She thanked everyone for their support, and the students for being understanding of all of the changes brought on by the pandemic.

She’s looking forward to a fun evening and added that there will a photo booth with props including toilet paper and hand sanitizer – a nod to product shortages during the pandemic.

Organizing the prom has been an uplifting experience for Ketler, who said the students should stick around for the end of the dance to see a special surprise.

At Monday night’s Grove City borough council meeting, junior council member Hannah Foley said that the prom is a great idea, but she is concerned about the risk of spreading COVID-19, especially since it will be a large crowd.

Several council members agreed, with President George Pokrant adding that the students have a choice to attend or not, and that the organizers may have to discuss the issue later depending on how things go.

Mayor Randy Riddle asked if council could write a letter suggesting the organizers consider following the recommended guidelines.

Because the event is being held in Pine Township, there aren’t any actions the borough can take, solicitor Tim Bonner said.

UPDATE: Grove City Area School District has canceled the senior prom. Survey results showed there was not enough interest. Plans are in the works for a May 2021 prom.

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