When schools across the State of Iowa were closed due to COVID-19 this spring, MVAOCOU rescheduled Prom for Saturday, June 27, in the hope that restrictions on gatherings would be loosened by then.
Prom was originally scheduled for Saturday, April 25, and the junior class had picked the theme “Party like it’s 1920.”
MVAO superintendent Jeff Thelander said with the recent guidance about June activities from the Department of Education made it essentially impossible for the school hold any semblance of a school-sponsored Prom, especially a dance or grand march witnessed by a large crowd, ultimately canceling Prom 2020. Junior and senior families were notified during the last week of May.
MVAOCOU prom sponsor Katherine Dirksen said all of the planning was done, and all the decorations were purchased and are currently in storage.
“I am very hopeful that prom will be back in the future so decorations can be used if we have a similar color palette,” Dirksen said. “It shouldn’t be too hard because the colors were black and gold.”
“We waited as long as we could on making a final decision on Prom, holding out hope that the pandemic restrictions might be loosened if gatherings would be deemed safer by the end of this month,” said Thelander. “It is with great disappointment that we ultimately had to cancel Prom this year. This is such a special event for our students and for our community, and we were hopeful that by late June we could have it or some form of it.”
Dirksen added that not many schools put on a Prom like MVAOCOU.
“Our community members come out to support these kids in a way that I have personally never seen before, which is why I am so proud to help put on this special event each year,” Dirksen said. “This year has been tough, but I look forward to the great things next year will bring.”
Thelander noted the school tried to stay in close contact with other Western Valley Conference schools and their decisions about Prom.
Senior Abbi Boysen said it was nice of the school to try and push back Prom, but she didn’t have too much hope that it would happen.
“As we continue to navigate COVID-19, we rely heavily on public health and department of education guidance to help us keep everyone safe and minimize risk,” Thelander said. “I just feel really sad for our juniors and seniors and for the families who worked hard to support this year’s Prom.”
Senior Avery Ehlers bought her dress back in January and had it altered.
“I was ready,” Ehlers said.
Her favorite part about Prom is getting ready and taking pictures with her friends.
“Prom is one of those last things that you get to do your senior year that we now won’t get to do that,” Ehlers said.
She will also miss seeing all of her friends dressed up one last night.
When the school moved Prom to June 27, that was also the date of Ehlers’ sister’s wedding, so she wouldn’t have been able to go in June. Her sister has also moved her wedding to a later date since it was announced Prom was canceled.
Ehlers and two of her friends did put on their Prom dresses and had a photographer take pictures of them together.
Boysen also had her Prom dress as she ordered it in February.
She will get to wear her Prom dress as she and two of her friends are going to have a little Prom of their own with a grill out in one of their backyards.
She was looking forward to the inflatables that were planned for After Prom and liked getting dressed up. Her sister was going to do her hair and make-up.
For Dirksen, who is the Prom sponsor, she can’t chose a favorite part about Prom, because as the kids well know, she loves everything about it.
“I love looking through the themes and discussing options with the juniors. I love picking out the decorations and trying to stretch every penny to make them say “WOW” when they see it. I love hearing them describe their plans for the day, who they are going with, where they are eating, what they plan to do afterward. I love when they show me their outfits after they went shopping,” Dirksen said. “I love setting up the gym with the junior class. They assemble the props and roll out the walkway. I love watching them get their pictures taken by Sarah Timmerman. She does an amazing job of making them feel comfortable so they can laugh and smile with her for the perfect picture to treasure forever. I love seeing them arrive, then nervously have to wait in the very hot hallway for their moment to shine. I love the relief on their faces and the big sigh of relief when they make it to the other side of the gym without falling. They walk taller, they smile bigger, they radiate joy. I love it when the music starts and they finally let loose on the dance floor.”
Thelander said, “I also know how resilient our students are. This pandemic has handed everyone a disruption to many things we love to do, and our students, like all of us, will learn to be stronger through it.”
Parents who were involved with the MVAOCOU After Prom started fundraising for the night back in the fall at football games. They continued to hold fundraisers during the basketball season as they sold engraved ornaments, engraved glasses, held a half court shootout, and much more. A number of businesses from around the area also made donations to the After Prom.
Paula Schram, with the After Prom Committee, said the group only has a couple of expenses to pay since Prom and After Prom were canceled. The committee didn’t have to pay the hypnotist or for the inflatables or photo booth. Schram said all of them were very kind and understanding of the circumstance.
“It’s just a weird year,” Schram said.
She has helped with After Prom for three of her four kids.
While plans haven’t been finalized yet, Schram said the committee plans to divide the money out between every MVAOCOU senior and junior as the committee didn’t have time to put out a sign-up sheet because of the timing around COVID-19. They are hoping the seniors will get their money at graduation.
The After Prom Committee also had some items donated, and they are working on how to distribute them (mostly to the seniors).
Not only has the cancellation of Prom affected high school juniors and seniors, but it also impacted businesses.
John Babl at Kraft Clothing in Mapleton has been renting tuxedos since 1994. High school boys start coming in to rent tuxedos in late January or early February, but most rentals are done after mid-March.
Usually, Kraft Clothing rents about 60 to 70 tuxes for prom each year to students from MVAOCOU, West Monona, Westwood, and Whiting. Babl said he had about a dozen tuxedos ordered when the store closed on March 27 due to coronavirus restrictions.
“I enjoy getting to know the high school boys, and sometimes their dates that come along to help choose the outfit,” Babl said. ”It is pretty neat to see the boys’ reactions when they try on the tuxedo outfit for the first time. They think it is surprisingly cool! They find out that they look pretty good all dressed up.”
Babl is sure that many people were disappointed that Prom was canceled.
“April is the busiest time of the entire year for Kraft’s, and we were disappointed that we had to be closed and then Prom was canceled. Wait until next year!”
Normally on the day of Prom, Jami Carlson at Hair Divas starts styling girls hair at 10 a.m. She usually does between four to five girls, but it depends if she does their make-up, too.
Goslar schedules an hour for hair appointments and an hour and a half for hair and make-up.
She said it will be different not doing Prom hairstyles this year.
“I love the girls that come in and say ‘Do what you want’,” Goslar said, as this is her favorite part. “I like different styles than just the normal up-dos. I like to be creative.”
Goslar said she wishes she could see all the Prom girls she had booked, but in the end it is what it is.