JERRY CITY – Elmwood High School students will not have a prom this year — but they will get a drive-in celebration with DJ and prizes.
The school district’s board of education held a special meeting Monday to decide whether there will be a celebration for this year’s junior and senior classes.
While they voted against a traditional prom, they did approve the outside drive-in style event proposed by Roberta Bodnar, adviser for the junior class which historically hosts prom.
Only those members of the class of 2020 and the class of 2021 will be allowed to attend, which means no dates, no younger students, and no outsiders.
Her proposal includes an event June 23, either from 6-9 p.m. or 7-10 p.m., on the school campus. Deputies from the Wood County Sheriff’s Office would be on hand to direct traffic and only four people will be allowed per vehicle.
Parking will be drive-in style on the grass near the football stadium.
“I hope everyone comes, but I’m not sure everyone is going to attend,” Bodnar said.
The event must be before July 1, when the new school year begins, when seniors are no longer technically students and the prom funds cannot be spent.
Raffle tickets will be handed out at check-in, as will a goodies bag. A DJ will play music from the stadium speakers before the raffle prizes are pulled and then again after.
Outside bathrooms also will be available.
Board President Melanie Davis said she checked with the Wood County Health Department and got approval for the event.
“We could have some sort of outside, after-prom theater-style event,” Davis said, adding Health Commissioner Ben Batey “would totally back that.”
She learned the kids can get out of their cars and sit in chairs, and not be required to wear masks but refrain from getting close together.
There is $17,450 in the junior class fund, but Bodnar does not intend to use it all.
“When I ask for the community to support prom, I’m always frugal and watch how we spend money,” she said.
Treasurer LuAnn Vanek said as long as the board sanctioned the event, that money can be spent.
Previously, administration opposed any type of prom or after-prom this year, but Superintendent Tony Borton said high school officials would support this event if approved by the board.
“If this is what the board wants, (Principal Tom Bentley) will attend and make sure it is handled correctly as an administrator should,” Borton said.
Board member Brian King cast the lone vote against the event. He had concerns about the liability and that administration changed its mind after previously opposing a prom.
Borton said if it is a sanctioned event, it should be covered by the district’s liability insurance. He added that those students who have just graduated will have to understand if they do anything considered law breaking – such as bringing alcohol into the event or vandalism – it becomes a police issue not a school issue.
“This proposal was not available when we talked,” Borton said. “My thoughts are the school year has ended. The seniors have graduated, we need to move on. But I understand why the community is requesting this, why the board would honor it, and therefore we can make it happen.”
He said he and Bentley will support the decision of the board.
While this is not a traditional prom with dinner and dancing, “it’s something for the kids,” Bodnar said.
At the May school board meeting, Bodnar has offered two suggestions.
One was to rent out the drive-in theater in Tiffin and have a DJ and concessions.
“Our Wood County health commissioner said we should try to have something at our own school, and he could say yes or no to that,” Davis said. “He could not say yes or no to a different county.”
Bodnar’s second idea was to utilize the entire school building, have guests pay at the door, wear masks, and have their temperature checked. There would be stations students can visit. But she was told the school building would be closed until June 30.
When she learned outdoor sporting facilities were opening, she came up with this idea.
“The emphasis is on making good things happen and I’m so glad the board approved it,” Bodnar said. “I think the students and the community are going to be very appreciative.”
At the next meeting, set for in-person on June 22, residents who have petitioned to leave the Bowling Green City Schools district are invited to attend to explain why they want to join Elmwood.