Coronavirus Florida: Prom plans derailed for Jacksonville seniors
Taylor Freedle and her squad had it all planned out — from what eyelash extensions to get to where they would take photos and eat dinner.
The Nease High School senior was taking no chances with prom. Then it got canceled.
“I planned to do everyone’s hair and my other friend planned to do everyone’s makeup,” she said. “I had my dress, shoes, jewelry, hair and makeup ideas ready to go.”
Freedle and her friends spared no detail:
• Breakfast and dinner plans together
• Photoshoot in downtown St. Augustine in front of Flagler College
• Girl’s night after prom with movies and face masks
“Having all that preparation done for nothing is a let down,” she said.
Across Florida and the rest of the country, hundreds of thousands of students — like Freedle — had prom stripped away out of precautions surrounding the coronavirus.
In Duval County, the school district’s proms were called off when the district’s first wave of event cancellations occurred in March.
“I can confirm that grad bash and prom are canceled,” a spokeswoman with the school district said. The same goes for other districts across the region, state and country.
Now, students are forced to improvise.
Kyeli Brennan, a Mandarin High School student, slipped a royal blue dress on. From there, she grabbed a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of Purell.
“I think about the normal days of my senior year while I’m sitting on my couch taking my new online classes,” Brennan wrote in a blog post about the coronavirus’ impact on her senior year.
“The first week at home was okay. This week all the feelings hit me. I’m clawing through the unknowns in my mind: Will I have a prom? Will I have a graduation? Will I get to give my graduation speech? Hearing all the talk about ’the curve’ and how our numbers keep rising, my hope that these events will remain scheduled is dwindling.”
As a tribute to the prom she might not have, the senior class president did a series of what she’s calling “social distancing prom pics” and posted them to her Instagram.
She’s hoping other seniors will be inspired and do the same. Many are already planning photo shoots in lieu of prom since often, the dresses — which can cost hundreds of dollars — are non-refundable.
“I have my dress that cost a lot,” Sarah Pearson, who attends Duval Charter High School, said. “I’m still going to take pictures.”
Avery Glenn, a senior at Stanton College Preparatory School, had her dress, too.
“If prom does not happen, I plan on getting in my dress and having a photo shoot anyway,” she said. “About 25 of my friends were going to rent a party bus for the night and have a great time.”
Mara Sullivan, who’s a senior at Robert E. Lee High School, had a custom dress made for prom.
“Since it’s been canceled, I’m gonna probably get dressed up and dance around in my room,” she said.
Marcel Findlay, an Atlantic Coast High School senior, planned to go all out for his prom outfit.
“Me and a couple of my close friends were all gonna ride to prom in this nice Jags teal Jeep, which was also the same color as my tux,” he said. “We had it all planned. I had some socks that were teal with brown sloths on them.”
For some students, the cancellations meant a chance to hold a makeshift prom when things calm down — either virtually or in person.
“Since prom is canceled, when all this lets up, my boyfriend and I are going to have our own prom at his house,” Kendall Little, a senior at Mandarin High School, said. “We’ll hang decorations and dance together in our prom outfits.”
But for others, it meant a missed shot.
“I had been slowly hyping myself up to ask one of my friends to prom, but then put it on hiatus once this whole thing came about,” Evan Lively, who attends Mandarin High School, said. “I decided that if they announced prom was still on, I would ask her the second I knew. Since it was canceled, guess I’m out of luck.”
Caroline Ferris, a Mandarin High School senior, expressed her disappointment.
“Those are the memories you have for a lifetime,” she said. "It feels like the last few memories that we would’ve created during our senior year are being stripped away, one by one.“
Mandarin High School’s prom was supposed to happen last weekend.
In a note to seniors, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene said she knew this was a hard — and disappointing — situation for seniors.
“I am sure you can’t help but feel sadness at missing out on these traditional activities and memories,” she said. “I want you to know I understand how hard you have worked to get where you are today. Between exciting events like prom and Grad Bash, your senior year is supposed to be a year to remember.”
During a news conference, Englewood High School student journalist Ti'lar Hearst asked Mayor Lenny Curry about potentially holding a prom event for seniors across Jacksonville at the Prime Osborn Convention Center at a later date. Curry said it was a great idea.
“I hate that you’re having to experience this, but I applaud you for being strong and courageous for helping us stop this spread,” he said. “And I applaud you for thinking about your peers and wanting to do something citywide. My team will connect with you, you can help us connect with the right people and we will work to provide an experience that will be memorable for you."
Seniors, do you have your prom outfit and nowhere to go? Post your social distancing prom photos online with the hashtag #NoPromJax and make sure to tag @jaxdotcom or email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject, “Prom,” for a chance to be featured in an upcoming photo gallery.
Emily Bloch: (904) 359-4083