Mitchell seniors must seek another farewell with prom canceled

A couple make their way across the floor during grand march as part of a Mitchell High School prom on at the Corn Palace. (Republic file photo)

Mitchell High School seniors must find another way to say goodbye.

There will be no elegant dresses or snappy tuxedos, no limousines and no corsages. The coronavirus ripped away one of the most popular traditions for American high school students.

Prom is more than fancy clothes, slow dances with a high school crush and an afterparty. For many, it is the culmination of friendships and relationships sustained since preschool and one last school function after four years of hard work.

The likelihood of commencement ceremonies and graduation parties are yet to be finalized, but those bring different emotions than prom. Once a diploma is in hand, focus is shifted to what lies ahead. Prom is the last chance to be a high school kid.

“These carefully planned events are being canceled — some of our students and family members are emotionally invested, financially invested,” Mitchell Principal Joe Childs said, “and it’s devastating to navigate your final year of high school missing them. … All of the activities that our students deserve and earned to take part in, it’s a shame to see those things removed from our calendars.”


By the time prom was canceled, most students were numb to the effect after having so many events taken away. There is still some sting, though, as tuxedos have been rented and dresses purchased. Many will attempt to resell dresses on the secondary market without the opportunity to wear them, while others will keep them as a reminder of a special night that never materialized.

The night is not just sentimental for attendees, but for parents and siblings as well. Parents are robbed of one final photograph before their children become adults. That photo may be buried at the bottom of a box or an Instagram page as more crucial life moments usurp that moment, but is forever memorable for families.

“I have a sister who is a senior and this was a time we were going to be all dressed up together,” said Anna Scheurenbrand, a junior and a member of Mitchell’s prom committee. “It’s not a final goodbye, but it’s something we would remember for the rest of our lives.”

Mitchell administrators attempted to concoct supplements for the prom since decorations had been purchased, including hosting the May 9 event at the school without parents rather than the Corn Palace, but eventually it became clear there was no way it could proceed without breaking social distancing guidelines.

“It would be just you and your date walking through,” said Kelsey Dahme, Mitchell senior and student body president. “We didn’t know if it would be the dance or not, but it was scheduled and all planned out with no parents.”

Another thought put forth was to hold an event sometime next year, but some felt the moment would be diluted by that time.

Many kids would be off to college or beginning careers, with new goals and priorities. New friendships would be made and others drifted apart as they navigate the path toward adulthood, turning prom into a reunion rather than a goodbye.

“It was a really hard decision to make, but the further we push it out, the harder it became to schedule something and make it so people would come back for college,” Dahme said. “Would we do something with the (current) juniors and sophomores? The more we tried to plan, the harder it got.”


Childs and Dahme both noted a murmur of some students planning to hold a prom on a smaller scale not associated with the school, and while the idea has traction, it will depend upon the status of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Most of us haven’t gotten to see our friends since we left school,” said Dahme, who also works for a local nursing home. “I think maybe it would have been a way to say goodbye to those people you won’t see again in high school, but it’s just not the time right now.”

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