High schools move ahead with prom, graduation plans

Phil Keren
Kent Weeklies
Cuyahoga Falls High School will have its prom on May 8 in the high school gymnasium and its commencement ceremony on May  25 at Canal Park. Both events will follow COVID-19 health protocols. This photo at the high school was taken in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CUYAHOGA FALLS — After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation and/or revision of end-of-school year events in 2020, both city high schools are planning to have modified prom and graduation programs this year.

Cuyahoga Falls High School will have its prom on May 8 in the high school's gymnasium. The theme for the dance is "Enchanted Forest."

Due to COVID-19, Falls High associate principal Jason Smith said attendance at the prom will be restricted to 550 people, and that number will be monitored by district staff.

Smith provided a list of rules for the event. Any attendee who has COVID-19 symptoms or was exposed to someone with COVID-19 should stay home. All attendees and school district staff will be required to wear masks at all times, and maintain 6 feet of distance from one another. Signs will be posted reminding everyone to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

A letter from the high school to parents indicated there would be dancing from 8 to 11 p.m.

Smith said dancing will be allowed at the event, and staff will "work to try to keep as much distancing as possible… but we can't guarantee 6 feet."

Smith added he was not certain how slow dancing would be handled.

"I don't know that any slow songs are going to be played, but I really can't guarantee that, " Smith said. "We're just … adhering to the recommendations where possible. They are recommendations as opposed to requirements."

There will be seating in the cafeteria for students who want to take a break. No meal is being served.

Beverages will be served in the cafeteria. Cups will be provided and beverages cannot be taken out of the cafeteria.

Social distancing protocols will be used in conjunction with entry into the event and seating will also be socially distanced. Staff will monitor and enforce social distancing protocols.  Restrooms will be monitored by district staff to prevent large gatherings and the facilities will be cleaned every half hour by staff members. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up in multiple spots.

Exhaust fans and windows in the back hallway will be opened to provide more ventilation.

Falls High's commencement ceremony is set for May 25 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Canal Park in Akron. Four tickets will be provided to each graduate for the program. 

"Under the guidance of the Ohio Department of Health and the Summit County Health Department, Cuyahoga Falls High School is working with Canal Park to deliver a commencement ceremony that is both memorable for the class of 2021 graduating seniors and promotes the safety and well-being of everyone in attendance," Smith said.

Facial coverings will be required for all attendees, seating will be arranged in a socially distanced manner per Ohio Department of Health guidelines and there will be a limit on the number of attendees per graduate that are allowed.

More detailed information will soon be provided.

The PTSO will host an After Graduation Party at The Workz on May 25.

There will be a senior picnic with a "Fiesta" theme on May 21 on the high school's practice field. There are tentative plans for a honk-out event which have not been finalized.

There will be a student-only senior recognition event in the Cuyahoga Falls High School auditorium on May 24 at 8:30 a.m. Students are to arrive at 7:45 a.m. in their cap and gown.

A Clap Out event will happen in school buildings throughout the district immediately after the Senior Recognition.

Woodridge High School will have its prom on April 24 and its commencement ceremony on May 24. Both events will occur with COVID-19-related restrictions and protocols.

Woodridge will have prom on April 24, graduation on May 24

Woodridge High School will have its prom on April 24 from Todaro's Party Center in Akron. Before the prom, there will be a promenade in the high school gymnasium where the court will be presented with a flower procession and a parade of prom attendees. The king and queen will be crowned at this event. Parents will be allowed to attend the promenade and take photos, according to high school principal Joel Morgan.

Morgan said many precautions will be taken to keep students safe during this annual rite of passage. A student with COVID-19 symptoms or was recently exposed to someone with COVID-19 "should not attend prom," Morgan said.

When students arrive at prom, they will have their temperature taken, be asked COVID screening questions and sanitize their hands.

Morgan said hand sanitizer will be set up at multiple locations at the venue and the Todaro's staff will frequently disinfect common surface areas. For the meal, Todaro's will serve the food rather than host a buffet.

Students will be required to "properly" wear a mask or face covering at the event, except when eating or drinking, according to Morgan.

Students will be in groups of 10 when they sit at the dinner table and Morgan said they've asked Todaro's to keep the tables keep 6 feet apart.

"We will also encourage students to remain 6 feet apart," Morgan said. "However, with their date, while they will be wearing face masks, 6 feet cannot be consistently maintained."

Due to the 6-foot distancing protocol, dancing will not be allowed but Morgan said  "the hired DJ will be playing background music during the event."

He added they will not need to limit attendance for the event. 

"Todaro’s is able to accommodate the amount of students who have purchased tickets while also maintaining social distancing guidelines," Morgan.

Woodridge's commencement ceremony is May 24 at 7 p.m. at Blossom Music Center.

Superintendent Walter Davis said details are still being finalized, but stated, "We are thrilled to be able to be back at Blossom for graduation."

"We’re all looking forward to celebrating our students - both their accomplishments and just watching them interact with one another," Morgan said.

With the exception of the weeks between Thanksgiving and the winter break (when it was fully remote learning) high school students have attended classes in a hybrid setting throughout the school year. Only half of the students are in the building at any one time. That means the graduation ceremony will be the first chance in more than a year for the Class of 2021 to be together in one place.

"After this difficult year, we look forward to seeing our students just have some fun and enjoy one another in a larger setting," Morgan said. "It’s not totally normal, but our students are going to make some great memories this year."

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.